MINISTER for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, this week laid accent on the importance of making heavy investment in sports.
He said until and unless Tanzanians made heavy investment in sports, and team events like soccer in particular, they should simply forget about competing and winning against the best in the world.
Mwakyembe said if one took a glance at what other countries were doing in sports compared to what we were doing in terms of investments, one would realise that it is impossible for us to compete against the best in the world and win.
Why? By the time such countries that had well invested in their sports fielded their teams against ours, it was quite clear that their teams would win against us. Listening carefully to the minister, he minced no words when he turned to soccer, the most loved game by Tanzanians, but which also happens to be the most ill-prepared in the country.
Indeed, soccer is the most ill-prepared and equipped sport in the country because those responsible for its development have continued to rely on outdated methods of developing their players.
For while other countries prepare their players from as early as six and through well established and scientifically run soccer academies, Tanzanians have had no interest in taking their talented children through such well developed and tested systems.
It would have made sense had this lack of interest in developing soccer players through scientifically, established systems was being resorted to by people in the streets. Unfortunately those who shied away from such well established methods of developing soccer players was being resorted to even by top flight clubs in the country’s elite premier soccer league.
In fact, the only team in the Vodacom Premier League which is fully involved in soccer academy is Azam FC, which in terms of investment in the soccer, is second to none in Africa. Azam have invested in the game so much that it is just a matter of time before they start reaping the fruits of their investment.
In short, Azam is the only club in Tanzania that has done what Mwakyembe was saying, invested in the game. But why have other Tanzanians, most of whom follow very closely not only English and other top flight premier leagues in the world but are also avid ‘lovers and members’ of such teams; resistant against soccer academy even when they have opportunities to introduce such system?
The answer is very simple, most of the people entrusted to run such top flight clubs are not business minded. They still consider soccer nothing more than a sporting event for young men and women who have failed elsewhere.
They don’t consider soccer as business that has now become. These are the kind of people who still believe in winning soccer matches against well drilled teams from other parts of the continent through luck.
That is why we continue to hear of soccer leaders who appeal to Tanzanians to pray for them whenever their teams are against well drilled sides in continental soccer tournaments. They are the kind of people who believe that you can produce a winning soccer team simply by collecting any group of soccer players and entrusting it to a well trained, professional coach.
In fact, this explains why we continue to employ well tested coaches from all over the world. But when they come to Tanzania the same men who have done wonders elsewhere, fail to click in Dar es Salaam!
For one to understand these arguments, one has simply got to go through the list of coaches, living and the dead, who went through Tanzania in the last four decades and will appreciate my arguments.
Tanzania has had top flight German coaches who have drilled champions in the Bundesliga like Bert Trautman and Gurt Rudendorf, Serbian Milutin Sredojević Micho, presently coaching Orlando Pirates in South Africa, from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea Conakry, it has had Tambwe Leya and Nabby Camara respectively, but during all the while, we came unstuck.
Our teams got stuck, the handling by the foregoing coaches notwithstanding, because we thought the coaches could have worked on the ‘materials’ we had organised for them.
When Romanian coach who has since become a citizen of United States, Professor Victor Stanculescus was engaged by Young Africans in 1970, he told them he could not work on their existing team because they were old and could not follow his instructions.
But his employers told him that that is the team he had been brought into the country in order to handle. Victor did as directed, but on the sidelines, he would go on to produce one of the country’s most exciting sides, a side that would be built around players like Juma Pondamali, Mk weche, Gordian Mapango, Adorf Rishard etc.
The Pondamalis, Mkweches, Mapangos, Rishards were recruited by the then Romanian coach when they were less than 14 years. Interestingly, even after seeing what Professor Victor had done, Tanzanian soccer teams were uninterested in pursuing such a path of developing soccer players because they thought it took too long to get results.
But then that is what Dr Mwakyembe meant when he spoke about investment, and that is why the minister insisted, ‘we need to change our mindsets.’