ON Wednesday this week, I spent most part of my column talking about why I thought we were lucky to beat our opponents, Burundi, in the second leg of the preliminary round of the Fifa World Cup qualifier.
Today, I would like to look at something else, but more or less the same topic I had dwelt on, on Wednesday this week. This has something to do with what we are all familiar with when it comes to our soccer fathers, the Tanzania Football Federation. It’s called preparation for the national soccer team.
Since I first came to know the TFF, they have never impressed me whenever it came to preparing the team for its competitive soccer tournaments. As a result, we have always ended up failing to get further, except early this year when we qualified, for the second time, for the Afcon soccer tournament in Egypt.
Even after we had qualified for the Afcon soccer tournament, we did not prepare our team well for the tournament and that explains why we performed the way we performed, worse than what we had done when we first qualified for the Afcon soccer tournament in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1980.
For those who may have forgotten, we were beaten three nil by our hosts, Nigeria, 2-1 by Egypt and drew one all with Ivory Coast, hence bagging one point. But this time, in Egypt, we were knocked out of the tournament without even a point and were beaten even by our neighbours, Kenya. It is well known that most of the time when we are supposed to be taking part in competitive soccer tournaments, we usually find ourselves short of money. It is understandable and one cannot blame anybody for that. But there is still one thing we can still do and that is, what I would like to talk about today.
Yes, even now, after taking out Burundi I don’t think we have the money for instance in sending our team abroad in preparation for the next matches. But we can still do one thing, get our players 100 per cent fit for any match and that does not need a lot of money. Getting our players fit involves pumping them with the magical four S, strength, speed, suppleness and stamina. We need to prepare our players for the kind of staying power that can keep them in any pace of the game and for over 120 minutes.
But before we get them into the four magical S, we need to get them in the gym where they can strengthen their bones and muscles that should keep them fit against any of their opponents that are given to physical game. We may not be having money, as I have already said, but surely we should afford to pay for gyms for our players and they should be allowed to make use of the equipment as often as possible. For instance, we knew Simon Msuva when he was still turning out for Dar es Salaam Young Africans.
But the Msuva we know now is not what we knew when he was playing for the Jangwani Street Club. The present Msuva is stronger on account of being packed with more muscles, thanks to his latest workouts in the gym at his club in Morocco. Msuva is presently no pushover when it comes to running with the ball on the edge of the pitch.
No opponent can push the player off the pitch because the young man is stronger on the ball than he used to be in the past, and that does not need a lot of money to get a player in the shape both Msuva and Mbwana Samatta are in today and that’s what I’m talking about. We, therefore, need to subject our players both through the gym and in pumping them in the magical, four S. Subjecting our players to the two, pronged preparation would help in getting them to a level where we could reach very far in the tournament. Thirdly, we have discovered that our team is very weak when it comes to playing as a team.
The other day, their chief coach said that our players were slow learners, which is again understandable given the route they went through to get where they are. Indeed, in modern football, poor learners are always players who learnt their soccer through the streets, players who lack what is referred to as basic soccer. It is usually very easy to mark out such players on the pitch.
One, they are usually very poor when it comes to defending dead balls, they cannot protect their goals during corner kicks, they always remain together in the pack when they have no ball and they don’t mark their opponents well.
Our chief coach can reduce the foregoing problems if our players are afforded more time together. Yes, if they can play together more often than not, it is possible that they can reduce problems I have noted above and that can easily increase our chances of doing better this time round. But how do we get more time for our team to play together as a team? It’s easy. We can get them together for not less than four days at the end of every month.
Let us start now instead of looking for excuses every time we are knocked out of a competitive soccer tournament.
• Attilio Tagalile is a journalist/ author and media consultant based in Dar es Salaam and can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org