MOST soccer fans can recall how our U-17 national soccer team, Serengeti Boys, performed a few months ago during the African Youth Championship (AYC) hosted by Gabon.
The Tanzanian boys were however, knocked out in the second round of the tournament they had participated for the first time in the country’s AYC history.
But Tanzania would not have participated in that tournament had the former TFF leaders not appealed to the continental soccer body (CAF) after Congo Brazzaville had cheated by fielding not one, but three over aged players.
In the end, it was proved, beyond reasonable doubt, that one of the three players was indeed an over aged player and Tanzania was allowed to replace the Congolese team.
But for those who have cared to follow up past matches involving Tanzania and Congo Brazzaville, would recall that, that was not the first time that the Congolese had done what they did against Tanzania.
About four years ago, the Congolese did not only field over aged players, but their fans physically manhandled the Serengeti Boys’ coach. If lessons are to be learnt, the first lesson Tanzania learnt through what had later led to the team being reinstated in the AYC soccer tournament is that national soccer leadership also means litigating against teams that try short change us.
After Serengeti Boys were knocked out of the AYC soccer tournament, one thing I had expected to hear from the new TFF leadership was how they were going to nurture the team. This was very important because it would have marked the beginning of the next, very important development for the team both in terms of age and soccer.
Had Serengeti Boys gone on to win the tournament in the same way that the then reigning AYC champions, Mali, had done, Serengeti Boys would have also had the opportunity of defending the title.
This is actually how Mali had come back to defend the title they had won last year when they participated in this year’s AYC soc cer tournament. Unfortunately for Serengeti Boys, they were knocked out of the tournament but as we all know, that was not the end of the team.
It is for that reason that I wanted to hear plans by the new TFF leadership on the team. For instance, after the end of the AYC soccer tournament, the next move would be to start working on a new outfit for the next continental youth soccer tournament.
But since some of the players in the Serengeti Boys would still be younger, it means the new team to replace Serengeti Boys would now have to be built around these younger players, but who are experienced having already taken part in the U-17 tournament in the previous season.
But for those who may be approaching or have already attained 18, they would form the right candidates for the nucleus of the new players for the U-20 national team. The implication of the foregoing is that at least half of the players, who had taken part in the first U-17 AYC, would be joined by younger players to contest for yet another U-17 AYC final.
The other half would, as already noted, form the nucleus of the new, U-20 national soccer team that would start preparation in readiness for qualification matches for the next U-20 conti nental finals.
For the TFF to handle Serengeti Boys more professionally, they would actually need to establish a new committee of coaches who would be following, very closely, the development of both players and teams from one generation to another.
Until and unless they do that, they would not succeed in developing the game for the simple reason that every batch of Serengeti Boys would evaporate into thin air at the end of each tournament.
But the media, and in particular, sections that deal with sports, and soccer in particular, need to take interest on these teams. As for the players, former members of Serengeti Boys in particular, would stick to training if they discover that national soccer officials are still very much interested in their future development.
Let us not forget that some of the members of Serengeti Boys are not only in school, but have also been doing very well academically. For players who are also performing well academically, once they discover that no one is interested in them after the AYC soccer tournament, would concentrate in academics and we would end up losing players who are also strong academically.
For let us not forget that there is nothing as good as having players who are not only doing well as footballers, but also as academicians. Players doing well both in football and education are the right crop of players who can also cope well if they are picked by scouts to play for top flight European teams.
In fact that is how Cameroon had this striker, Patrick Mbouma who was not only a professional soccer player but had also a degree in mathematics. At one time Tanzania’s Taifa Stars had not only a skipper, but a man who was also an engineer in the name of Leodegar Tenga, who would later be elected as TFF president.