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Uzalendo can fast be built through sports

THERE are a lot of lessons that can be drawn from the ongoing Brazil U-17 Fifa World Cup which this time actually started in Tanzania, for the first time in the country’s history, it hosted the continent’s U-17 soccer tournament.

In Africa’s African Youth Championship (AYC) which was held early this year, Tanzania’s Serengeti Boys could have qualified for the Brazil Fifa World Cup had they won not less than three matches.

But as usual we did what we know best failed through own making when we decided to sack the very man who had produced the team that had done so well in the regional soccer tournament, the Danish tactician, Poulsen and replaced him with people who in the end showed Tanzania how not to win a tournament.

This year’s Brazil U-17 Fifa World Cup tournament is a sad affair as all African teams were eliminated in the group stages of the tournament. The failures included Nigeria which has won this tournament three times and Africa needs to go back to the drawing board.

This is because doing badly in the U-17 tournament is extremely bad because that is where future qualifiers for Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and Fifa World Cup are produced. The semifinalists are the hosts, Brazil, France, the Netherlands and Mexico. The Netherlands and Mexico were the first to book their semifinalist berth.

On Thursday this week, the Netherlands were expected to have played against Mexico and on the following day, yesterday, Friday, the French team was supposed to have taken on the stylish Brazilians who had displayed untold talent in the tournament.

Lessons that African teams and in particular their soccer federation can learn from this tournament is that most of the present top soccer nations tend to qualify for this particular tournament.

Indeed, you cannot do well in this tournament and fail to field a team and do well in other senior tournaments such as the U-20, which was won by Britain, the U-21 Fifa World Cup which was won by Germany and the Fifa World Cup held in Russia and which was won by France.

France did not only eliminate the mighty Spanish team, but went on to set a world record at this level of the tournament when they scored 6-1 to qualify for a semifinal berth against the hosts, Brazil. Now if you look at the team which qualified for the semifinals, France, Brazil, the Netherlands and Mexico, then you realize why the four nations are soccer power houses in the world.

They have become soccer power houses in the world because they have been doing very well at that level of the tournament and that explains why they have also been doing well at other regional and top flight international soccer tournaments which includes the Fifa World Cup.

The senior French team is the present Fifa World Cup reigning champions of winning the tournament in Russia and they are also very much likely to beat the Brazilians, meaning that they could easily set a date in the final against the winner between the Netherlands and Mexico.

I watched the French team play against Spain early this week and I don’t see how the senior French team can be stopped from winning the Fifa World Cup in the next two to three such tournaments. The French team were fast, strong on the ball and lethal before the ball.

In fact, their passing game is far better than their seniors and that explains volumes over their future. Therefore one lesson that Tanzania can learn from the on-going Brazil U-17 Fifa World Cup is that you cannot do well regionally and continentally if you don’t work hard in preparing your U-17 players.

And that as we all know can only be achieved if we establish scientifically run soccer academies. Our soccer academies cannot scientifically prepare our children to compete with the best in the world if they are trained by poor coaches who are not schooled in the modern game.

Therefore, if Tanzania wants to compete with the best in the world, the government need to assist the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) and top flight clubs in the country by sending well educated Tanzanians for coaching courses abroad.

Handling children in soccer academies requires special instructors, preferably young men and women. The government need to train such coaches for swimming, soccer, basketball all ball games and athletics in the same way it trains teachers for history, Kiswahili, mathematics and other subjects.

The government has time and again insisted the dire need for schools in the country to instill uzalendo on our youth. But nothing helps in inculcating such a thing more than sports. We all saw how South Africa’s victory at the Rugby World Cup played in Japan recently brought together the once racist ravaged South African nation.

The game brought them together in 1995, in 2007 and this year. Imagine if they could do the same thing with other sports like soccer, winning Afcon and the Fifa World Cup. Therefore if we want to build a cohesive nation, investing in sports is not a bad idea and that need to start now.

• Attilio Tagalile is a journalist/ author and media consultant based in Dar es Salaam and can be contacted through tagalileattilio@ yahoo.co.uk


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