When shall we see big foreign teams again?

WHEN you go through records, you find top soccer teams from Africa, Europe and Latin America used to come to Tanzania to play exhibition and friendly matches.

Many people have been patiently waiting, hoping and praying for history to repeat itself, but there seems to be no indication of that happening.

All that people hear is that arrangements have been finalised for foreign teams to visit Tanzania at the end of their league seasons. But later we are not told what happened, and we keep on waiting patiently for another such announcement, only to realize later that nothing was in the offing.

The visits of foreign clubs and national teams in the 1970’s and 1980 not only gave Tanzanian football fans good entertainment, but also helped in one way towards the development of this beautiful game in the country.

The long list of clubs which visited Tanzania in the past includes Manchester City, Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion from England, Fluminense and ABC from Brazil.

The once famous Hafia FC of Guinea used to be a regular visitor to Tanzania. These teams were either invited by some of our leading clubs or the country’s soccer governing body, known at the time as the Football Association Tanzania (FAT).

But nowadays, we are used to get reports of one club after another winding up plans to come to Tanzania at the end of their league season, but their anxiously awaited visits end up in the print and electronic media.

For example, in the year 2011, there was a lot of publicity that Birmingham FC which was then playing in the English Premier League was to make a pre-season tour of the country as guests of Simba Sports Club.

The then Chairman of Simba, Adam Rage, went to the extent of telling the media about “superb arrangements” to accommodate the team in a five star hotel.

We were told that Birmingham planned to come with about 1,000 fans (some of us doubted the number) and that other logistics for welcoming the team and its fans were finalized. But the tour disappeared in thin air, and there was no word on what happened.

Later, we heard that the famous Real Madrid was to visit Tanzania to play friendly matches in the country when the Spanish League winds up. It was the same old story.

However, we had a visit of Everton in 2017 which came under the sponsorship of SportPesa.

This is not a healthy situation, and to some extent disappoints Tanzanian soccer fans. We should not expect to do better if we don’t have enough competitive and test games for our players.

Friendly and competitive matches with foreign clubs help our up-coming players when they witness talented players of other countries in action.

The government, the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) and clubs should see how, either individually or collectively, they can have a programme of inviting foreign teams to come and play friendly games.

We can start by inviting several clubs and national teams from neighbouring countries and reciprocate by making return visits. It is only through playing several test matches that we can do better in international competitions.

The present system of sending our teams in camps and then take part in international tournaments will not give us good results. If we have managed to do it in the past, what stops us from doing it now?

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