ANOTHER history has been written in the country’s football circles, as for the first time, the Under-20 team Ngorongoro Heroes will fly high national flag in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) set next year in Mauritania.
Usually, it was Serengeti Boys (Under-17) who had a tendency of frequently appearing in the junior level AFCON tournament beginning with the one which unfolded in Gabon in 2017 which was the first time for the young players to parade in the elite contest.
Though the team did not succeed to make a big impact, landing there alone to play in the finals was a big step for the flag carriers as it gave them exposure on how it feels to reach that far, hence, they had to build a culture to reach there now and then.
After that, another package of youth players forming the Under-17 squad competed in the same competition which was held in the country last year making it the second time for them to feature in the decorated youth championship.
Again, not much was achieved by them despite being blessed to have the hot competition played at their backyard in front of family members and friends something which was a disappointing but it was another good chapter for the development of youth players.
With the fact that the tournament was staged in the country, many people had hopes that the lads will do a recommendable job to retain the title, but that still remain a wish and one wonders where things had fallen apart to fail to clinch the trophy.
Putting that aside, this time around, the issue is different as the country will deploy a midlevel aged team (Under-20) which is ready to do the good job for the Tanzanians who are sports loving people.
They earned the privilege after reaching into the finals of the Under-20 CECAFA Regional AFCON Qualifiers which climaxed on Wednesday at the tourism city of Arusha, a move which should highly be acknowledged by sport stakeholders countrywide.
They succeeded to showcase high class football, the type of the game which is sourced from books and apply it on the pitch since most of them are of the right age capable to adapt new football skills thereby simplifying the works of the coach.
Their age also gives them green light to play for the national team side Taifa Stars but this is never taken into consideration as usually, when the senior team squad has been named, you hardly see a player(s) who is aged either 20 years old or below.
But qualifying alone was not enough, people would like to see them returning back home with trophies so that they can congregate at the giant Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) to give the boys a cordial reception.
Yes, this is the most important thing bearing in mind that the players have what it takes to make it big on the continental scene with all the necessary monetary and material support at their disposal. What they need is to just get on the pitch and let their legs do the talkings.
As the celebration is there for the big achievements made by the young boys, also, answers need to be provided on what should be done to make sure that after the next year’s Under-20 contest, all the players are well protected to see them joining Taifa Stars.
Here, a good example is the case of former Under-17 goalkeeper Ramadhan Kabwili who is now with a big club Young Africans but the way he is treated there gives one many questions than answers. With his age, one expect to see him playing regularly at the club level as well as winning calls in the senior team squad whenever it is unveiled so as to skyrocket his shot stopping skills but that is never the case.
Frankly, he is not trusted both at club and national level to the extent that they (Yanga) are ready to import a foreign goalkeeper and leave him rusting on the bench which is not good at all.
Likewise, at the senior team, coaches are willing to recall veteran goalies while young blood shot stoppers like Kabwilis are present and miss such golden opportunities to rebrand themselves and grow. Here, Kabwili has just been used as a case study but there are plenty of Young players who had a platform to parade their potential to the public but were not protected as such, they are nowhere to be located.
Other times, a blaming finger should not only be pointed at clubs for failure to use certain players but, such players should also be willing to take a risk of joining teams they are sure to play often since training without playing matches is similar to drinking water in an empty stomach.
But, with this Under-20 batch, please, do not let go any of them provided they are alive. The Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) can create some policies to ensure that these future talents are well nurtured until they all play for the Taifa Stars.
Nobody will be interested to ask the whereabouts of the class of Ngorongoro Heroes which competed in the 2021 AFCON finals in Mauritania, but instead, everyone would be pleased to point at them all and say ‘these players are the products of 2021 Under-20 AFCON.’ Just imagine how good this feels!