TANZANIA’S only hope as soccer stakeholders continue to dilly dally over soccer academy as the only route to modern soccer development, the present Serengeti Boys were yesterday expected to leave for South Africa to participate in the region’s Under- 17 soccer tournament.
There are three main factors that make the COSAFA U-17 tournament extremely important for Serengeti Boys; one, the team will play against their counterparts from 14 countries.
Secondly, the 14 countries belong to a region where soccer is more developed than what we have in East Africa and thirdly, the tournament will provide Serengeti Boys with the right preparation for the team in readiness for the next year’s African Youth Soccer tournament to be hosted by Tanzania.
As already noted, the Council for Southern African Soccer Football Associations (COSAFA) has 14 members which are South Africa, Namibia, Madagascar, Seychelles, Comoros, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Botswana, Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola, Mauritius and Zimbabwe.
I have said the Cosafa region is more developed in soccer than East Africa because to date it has two Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) winners in South Africa’s Bafana Bafana (1996) when they beat Tunisia 2-0 in the final and Zambia’s Chipolopolo (2012) when they beat Ivory Coast in the final on penalties.
And, while East Africa has only won continental club tournament once, CAF Cup by Kenya’s Gor Mahia and Cosafa region has won continental clubs tournaments twice by South African clubs, Orlando Pirates in 1995 and Mamelodi Sundowns also referred to by their fans as ‘the Brazilians’ through the uniforms yellow and blue.
Both Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns have appeared in the finals of the continental clubs tournaments- Champions League and CAF Cup more than any club both in CECAFA and COSAFA and that makes the latter region stronger than the former when it comes to soccer development.
As I have said in my opening paragraph, Serengeti Boys are our present sole hope because all the players had the opportunity of developing their game through soccer academy and that is why they have been performing completely different from the crop of players we have in our clubs.
And because they have been performing differently and therefore by extension better, that’s why I say they are our sole hope at present on account of the fact that the bulk of the team stands better chance of ending up in top flight league in Europe.
In fact, going by the way they have been playing, starting with their performance in the CECAF youth tournament a few months ago, I’m quite sure that through the COSAFA youth tournament, those who are not yet destined for Europe will end up in South Africa before the start of next year’s (which by the way is just around the corner) African Youth Cup soccer tournament in Dar es Salaam and that should serve as a fillip for Tanzania.
At present, two members of Serengeti Boys have been snapped up by Scandinavian clubs and are presently in Europe but they are expected back next year for the AYC tournament.
Although it may be too ambitious to expect Serengeti Boys to win the AYC in Dar es Salaam next year, but given the kind of exposure they are expected to get from their participation in the COSAFA Youth Soccer tournament they should be able to reach far in the continental soccer tournament next year.
Personally, my hope on the team is not winning the continental soccer tournament, but rather in our boys getting contracts to play in better developed soccer nations in Europe. This is because the more our best developed young talents are snapped up by top flight European clubs, the better placed is for our national soccer team, Taifa Stars.
Indeed, as I have had occasions to say in the past, Tanzania will not get anywhere in Afcon and Fifa World Cup qualifiers as long as they continue to rely on street developed soccer players who are the bulk of players in our present premier league.
In fact, the sooner we realise that the so called success some of our teams have been getting even in the on-going premier league is actually neither here nor there, the better.
For let us, for once, ask ourselves, the following question: What benefit do our clubs get from winning the premier league, year in and year out, if the furthest they can reach in the continental clubs soccer tournaments is in the preliminaries?
Just last week, we made a lot of noise when our two clubs, Simba and Mtibwa Sugar won their first round matches through a total of eight goals to one.
What we seem forget, and conveniently at that, is that we have been doing what we are presently doing for the last 40 years and the best outing were recorded in 1974 and 1993, but the point still remains, and that’s, we have never won a continental cup!
What troubles me to the core is that we all seem to know how we can do better in these continental clubs soccer tournaments, yet we don’t want to do what others are doing.