TAIFA Stars last Sunday blew off their chance of a lifetime of qualifying for the Afcon finals in Cameroon next year, when they allowed Lesotho to beat them by a lone goal.
Hence giving the southern African team a lifeline for contesting for the same position.
Interestingly, the same day Taifa Stars who had been billed to win, the Fifa world number one, Belgium was thrashed 5-2 by Switzerland and knocked out of the last four in European Nations Cup.
You can therefore, compare Taifa Stars to Belgium. Taifa Stars who had had an edge over both Cape Verde (with four points) and Lesotho (with two points) before the start of the match in Maseru, now have the same points with Lesotho who have now moved to the second position, after Uganda Cranes who have already qualified for the Afcon finals with 13 points.
I have deliberately used the word allowed because that is precisely what Taifa Stars players did, from the start to the end of the match, giving their opponents elbow movement to do what they liked!
Taifa Stars players literally left their opponents unmarked and had Lesotho settled, they could have won the match with more than three goals.
I have personally not witnessed Taifa Stars play with such lack of seriousness than in their match against Lesotho who completely took control of the midfield from the onset of the match.
Interestingly, most of the fans have vented their anger on the Nigerian Chief Coach, Emmanuel Amunike, who in my opinion is completely blameless unless they wanted the coach to play for Taifa Stars.
Indeed, how can you blame the coach when the players were not marking their opponents, they were allowing their opponents free headers and were not helping their goalkeeper in defending their goal?
Amunike on Monday defended himself that he had fielded the players on the basis of how they have been performing in training, that he could not field a player who had not been performing well in the ten days training in South Africa.
Fans are blaming the coach for late substitution of players like Shiza Kichuya, John Bocco, Feisal Salum and others, but what they don’t seem to understand is that the players who later brought in are the same players who had not been doing well in training.
Therefore, the question they need to ask themselves is why did the players who had been performing well in training play the way they did on Sunday, leaving their opponents scot free to do whatever they wanted to do on the pitch?
How can one blame the Nigerian chief coach when a Lesotho striker was given the luxury of missing to hit the ball not once, but twice, and barely two metres from Taifa Stars’ goal, after a Taifa Star defender had literally backpassed to his opponents?
That historic miss by the Lesotho player have been played over and over in the world and just goes to demonstrate how poor Tanzanian defenders were in that match and again, that has nothing to do with Amunike again unless we wanted the Nigerian to play after he had already prepared the team for the game.
In fact, Taifa Stars lost the match against Lesotho last Sunday simply because most of the players fielded were local players, players who play in the premier league.
Simply put, the defeat is nothing but once again a massive demonstration of the weakness of our so called league where matches are bought like groundnuts in the market.
In fact, if you take Taifa Stars three earlier matches against, twice Cape Verde and once against Uganda, you would note that in the first and last matches against Uganda and Cape Verde, Taifa Stars did well because all the nine players who play outside Tanzania were fielded with two places going to local players.
For those who have been reading my columns, I have repeatedly said that the nine players who are playing in Spain, Egypt, Belgium, South Africa and Z ambia would not have stayed in those countries had they not demonstrated both drive and commitment.
Most Tanzanian soccer players may be having tones of talents, compared to other African players, but what they lack, and massively at that, is personal drive, our players don’t seem to know what they want in life.
In short, our players are not fighters like Kenyans, Ugandans, Nigerians, South Africans and so on and so forth. In Kiswahili one can describe them as follows: kama wachezaji wanaoridhika mapema sana, they are players who are easily satisfied with what they have at hand.
Just try to find out where most of the players who were fielded on Sunday and who don’t play outside Tanzania are coming from and you will you will realise that they come from Simba,
Young Africans and Azam. Such players are not only a problem to the national soccer team, but they are also a problem to Simba, Young Africans and Azam FC.
Such players are a problem to the three clubs because although they are better paid in the three clubs than in other premier league clubs, yet they don’t play with drive and seriousness for their clubs.
You sometimes wonder if these players don’t put their all in the clubs where they earn their living, where else do they intend to provide their service?
What our players don’t seem to realise is that footballers all over the world have a very short playing time and if one does not have another profession other than football, then once he is over 30, he would be done.
The other problem our players have that most of them are poorly educated and that explains why it is extremely difficult for them to follow up the coach’s instructions.
On Sunday Taifa Stars played without the following key players, Abdi Banda from South Africa’s Baroka FC, skipper, Mbwana Samatta from Genk, Belgium, who usually plays for Taifa Stars as if he would never play another match in his life, Thomas Ulimwengu.
The only foreign based players who turned out for Taifa Stars last Sunday were the Egypt based player, Himid Mao, Shabaan Idd Chilunda, who plays in Spain and the Morocco based player, Simon Msuva, meaning that six foreign based players missed, hence the problem. But all is not lost.
If all foreign based players are fielded in the last match against Uganda Cranes, Tanzania should be able to beat the Ugandans at home and finish second, hence qualify.
The beauty of the last tie in Cape Verde between Lesotho and the hosts is that the former is unlikely to win away from home. But Taifa Stars need to qualify in their last game against Uganda in Dar es Salaam, then they should register an outright victory and not a draw.
This is because if Cape Verde win in their last match against Lesotho, they will bag in seven points and that would be more than enough for them if Taifa Stars draw against Uganda Cranes.