As Taifa Stars Have Returned Home, How Are We Reflecting on Meaningful Reforms for the Upcoming Competitions?

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Taifa Stars’ elimination at the AFCON tournament indicated that we cannot turn the tables there unless something drastic is done. Our team was too average, and sometimes, watching them pass the ball around without purpose was heartbreaking. In this aspect of African football, we did not stamp our authority, and we appeared content to be below average.

This article investigates whether meaningful reforms can change our fortunes at the highest level of the football stage and recommends that the government intervene in a more invasive way if we have to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The biggest question we all must address is why Taifa Stars was not audacious in attacking other teams. Why were we satisfied moving the ball around and banking for a stalemate? Why did our players in the DRC match believe they could win while in front of the Atlas of Morocco?

We were so cowered that a psychological defeat was palpable even before they scored against us. What is wrong with us that we lack that self-belief? Why, in the first half against the DRC, were we able to summon plenty of self-belief and swagger, and we were able to harass them to their nervousness?

Our whole performance appeared to lack experienced players at that level, and we grew into the games as we kept playing the next match. We can comfortably argue that the Moroccan pasting was like an electric jolt we badly needed, and we kept our heads sober in the remaining two games against familiar opponents.

Again, we can comfortably conclude that we almost beat Zambia’s dented side with one red card to worry about. Still, for lack of concentration, we meekly surrendered our lead that could have secured our historic first win in this competition. Against the DRC, we were at ease with the ball, albeit we did not press them hard enough to commit unforced errors.

We have nice stuff to take home, but we also have our baggage back home. Two years from now, we may probably qualify, but can we impose ourselves at this stage as serious contenders instead of serial escorts?

Our participation at the continental stage ought to be taken much more seriously than we do today, and we need to cease immediately from taking football as a trivial matter because it is not. Football is a very serious business, and if appropriately handled, it can potentially transform the lives of many youths who may not have a chance in our formal education system.

READ RELATED: Taifa Stars Deserve Better: Still Doubting TFF, Politics Shouldn’t Determine AFCON Triumph.

Money Always Talks

If you think carefully about our football organisation, one thing is starkly apparent: under-investment is staring at us. We have done little to put our cash where it matters most: the players. We treat players as if they do not matter while they do. When national teams play, they become our first-class ambassadors, but we never acknowledge them where it matters most in the pocket.

At one time, I was busing in Daladala when a couple of my fellow passengers shouted: “Jellah Mtagwa huyo jamani hata nauli ya daladala hana anaswaga kwa mguu….” I watched Jellah Mtagwa brave the damp weather, regularly mopping his brow.

The question that rang hollow in my heart was why top national players should struggle to make ends meet. What is wrong with us? Can we not handle our most visible ambassadors better so that they may lead decent lives after hanging their boots?

Football players carry the national banner unlike any other sport because more people watch soccer than any other game. Where infrastructural and economic constraints may dampen stadium attendance, television viewing is up by several folds as more football lovers watch from the comfort of their homes worldwide. So, football cannot and should not be underestimated.

Initially, the government must appoint both players in the national teams of Taifa Stars and Taifa Queens as our football ambassadors. Such appointments must be at par with other dignitaries with monthly pay and perks for just any officer in that position for the duration they are selected in the national team. Once not selected, they should be entitled to a quarter of the earnings they received from the government.

This shall shake up the attitudes of our youth when they see how our government values the national football players. Many children will begin to take it seriously and allocate sufficient time to become world-class players.

TFF Ought to be Run by Retired National Players

Recognition of public service must be part of the incentive package to woo our teens to consider football as a lifetime career. Videos of Samuel Eto’o hugging Cameroonian team players after mustering the most substantial test at the preliminaries and advancing to the second round.

The DRC recently elected President Felix Tshisekedi, turning up unexpectedly to congratulate and reassure his national team. Taifa Stars’ motivational personalities had nothing to do with kicking the ball at the highest stage or being a vital clog in paying up the players, as cited examples.

Our Taifa Stars’ morale was handed down to people who can hardly motivate anybody to save for themselves. If this was not pathetic enough, no money to motivate target achievement was in place. Here, we suggest our cash incentives that ought to push players to reach their full potential.

Cash Incentives Tailored to Performance Targets

Imagine if each player was promised generous cash terms beyond the salary structure we had previously recommended. Imagine winning any game in the AFCON tournament. Each player will rake in Tshs 50 million. Just imagine how the team will fire all cylinders to win every game.

Had this financial incentive been in place before the AFCON competition, we would have most likely beaten all teams in our groups. Imagine winning the second round and beyond; each player would be paid Tshs 100 million. Can you imagine the adrenaline rush the players would have fathomed to earn their toil? With such elaborate terms of financial compensation, the sky may not be even the limit.

The Tshs 1.2 billion allocated to the Taifa Stars did not encourage players to outperform themselves. Moreover, the money was scavenged from well-wishers and not government coffers, indicating our priorities are elsewhere, not everything football!

These reforms recommended here are not exhaustive but will place our football bandwagon on the right track. Then, we can focus on non-financial reforms that may catapult our football participation at the continental level to be highly competitive rather than the sorry state of affairs of being the whipping boy of the tournament.

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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