DEVELOPING football from the grassroots level in the country is no longer a dream but a reality, basing on efforts being made by the government and other partners in making sure that the world’s popular sport is developed.
With the fact that sports and football in particular are among the sources of employment worldwide, youth are not just letting the opportunity to pass by but they are working hard on the pitch daily so as to reach professional levels.
It is pleasing to see that the number of Tanzanian professional players, who are crossing boundaries is slowly but surely growing. Having a great number of players, who ply professional football abroad, is a catalyst towards improving the standards of football growth in the country.
In other words, the more professional players are created, the stronger the national football team becomes. As government reiterated commitment to upgrade football standards from the bottom level, it is now the duty for youth to put all their energy towards football development because without them nothing beneficial can be obtained.
A good example to support the fact that Tanzania is on the best track to excel and attain tangible results from investing in youth football, is the high competition level being showcased by talented youthful footballers, who are vying for places in the Under- 20 national football team ‘Ngorongoro Heroes’.
With the selection process currently underway at Karume Memorial Stadium in Dar es Salaam, there is no doubt that the nation will produce a highly competitive Under- 20 side, which will be a powerful football house in the continent.
It was not surprising to hear from the Head of Youth Football Development, Kim Poulsen, who admitted that the intense level of competition from the talented young stars is making it hard for the technical bench to pick the best crop of players from the rest.
Initially, about 50 young footballers were summoned in the provisional squad of Ngorongoro Heroes, to display their potentials and 23 amongst them were the former Under -17 national football team ‘Serengeti Boys’ players, who did a commendable job during the U-17 Africa Youth Championship (AYC) in Gabon early this year.
Here, mathematically, it means almost the entire team of Serengeti Boys was called for the Under -20 trials. However, according to Poulsen, the fact that they went to Gabon was not a straight forward qualification for them to proceed into the Heroes squad hence they, too, had to fight hard once again to prove their ability, a thing Poulsen said accelerated fighting spirit in the squad, as each player is eager to put on Heroes colors.
Yes, this was a good technique employed by the exTaifa Stars Head Coach, as it added flavour in the whole players’ selection process. Last Saturday, the squad was exposed to two friendly matches against Ruvu Shooting and Azam FC played at JMK Youth Park in Dar es Salaam.
The young boys thrashed Ruvu Shooting with a comfortable 3-0 victory but the Heroes surrendered 1-0 during their first encounter on the day against the Ice-cream makers, Azam. Both matches were vital for the technical staff to pinpoint the best players from the rest as each of them was given opportunity to display skills.
However, the advancement made by some of the past Under-17 players, who are now trading in the Mainland Premier League can not go without being accredited. Ramadhani Kabwili, the former Serengeti Boys keeper displayed a perfect example worth emulation from other upcoming talented lads.
His skills between the posts during the AYC in Gabon compelled Young Africans to fish him before the senior football team Taifa Stars also grabbed him into their squad. Even though he is not currently playing as first choice goalkeeper both at Yanga and Stars, the bottom line is that he is gaining materials, which will make him cross the borders to play international football in few years to come.
Time is here for coaches in the local league to put their trust in youth players and give them playing time because that is the only way to help the upcoming young talented players to be fit and ready to be used by any club and national teams.
The more they play competitive games, the better they become. Many football lovers in the country would like to see as many Under- 20 national football team players as possible, play in the country’s top flight league clubs for them to get exposure and mature, since they have the right age to exchange tackles with their brothers on the battle field.
As it is known globally, a country which has strong youth football team (s) is likely to have the best senior national football side, bearing in mind that the young players are the ones promoted into the senior squad.
Next year, Ngorongoro Heroes will be busy, as they will be subjected to Under- 20 AFCON qualifying games expected to begin in March. In order to increase the team’s chances to propel in the AFCON qualifiers, they must play series of friendly games with best teams, so as to build the talented stars mentally and psychologically ahead of the tough competition.
Tanzanians can not wait any longer to see another side of their own wearing traditional blue colours competing in the finals of Under- 20 AFCON just like the way Serengeti Boys did in Gabon this year.