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

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Few soccer pundits looked beyond Taifa Stars pitch nightmares were egged on by Tanzania Footbal Associaion (TFF) poor management. And even fewer soccer experts would point an accusing finger to political interference stoking Taifa Stars pitch off form. This discourse aims to correlate Taifa Stars pitch troubles with TFF’s lack of professionalism in an attempt to locate where our problems are and how to resolve them.

Soccer like no other sports has a long history of collaborative role in our political climate. No wonder, the political class take painstaking efforts to control it through picking top TFF managers and injection of funds and infrastructral investments. The history of TANU began with TAA and the history is incomplete without stitching up the loose ends of how civil servants during the colonial rule while their evening hours kicking the ball, and on their way home discussed the quest of self rule and determination: post soccer matches political agitation, so to speak.

Post independence Tanzania witnessed how the political class encroached in soccer through owning stadia and placing them in the hands of CCM bureaucrats who cared little about soccer but were very eager to mint cash from gate collections during soccer matches, and spent it on their personal effects.

Political ironclad vice on soccer did not end in controlling soccer pitches that were condemned in a state of disrepair because very little gate collected cash was recycled back to improvement of soccer pitches but had clenched the grip to cover how soccer was managed: soccer administration!

The political class always apprehensive of how soccer can be parlayed as a galvanising cauldron of turning the electorate against them in a similar way soccer was deployed to whip up emotions and strategize against colonial rule, the perspiration to pick political sympathisers to run and manage the TFF knows no bounds!

From the days of Football Association of Tanzania who would forget the legal wrangles between the axis of Muhiddin Ndolange and Aden Rage versus the rulers of the day? The rulers of the day had kicked out the duo from reigning over FAT affairs only for the squabble to meander in the courtroom where the rulers of the day learnt how to spell “OUCH” the hard way.

Behind the legal commotion between sports administrators and the political class laid down a concerted battle to own amd control the narratives of winning the hearts and minds of soccer fanatical. Soccer being the most loved sport in the country no politician worthy of her name would overlook soccer political clout in influencing who governs this country.

Real Related TFF’s Decisions Create Gaps: Tanzanian Football Still Need Haji Manara, and What About the Welfare of Albinism?

So, it requires no rocket scientist to figure out why political antennas are closely tuned and intertwined with the TFF administration, and through political interference politicians reign over soccer fans.

Most of the political interference contributed to poor pitch performance. While the TFF constitution made it abundantly clear her leadership would be formed by professional soccer administrators but in practical terms many of those who successfully gunned down the top posts have very little of that to begin with but are festooned with political connections.

The flipside of seeking political solutions is to reshuffle soccer priorities since what is important to soccer is not necessarily vital to political interests. For example, politics may prefer a candidate who will cushion it against the opposition but political solutions rarely coincide with the harsh demands of the game we all love and care about.

Over the years, the soccer federation has been churning out potbellied soccer administrators who care little for the game but realignment with the political class while dipping their grubby fingers in the coffers of the federation.

Criminal indictments against national soccer administrators are more common than an exception, and soccer players’ grumblings about being underpaid in continental tournaments are a thorn in the flesh against the highly politicised soccer administrators.

Every TFF past administration left with less money than they were handed over when they were voted in office for the first time, with few exceptions, here and there.

Before the Africa Cup of Nation (AFCON) clash against FIFA World Cup most recent semi finalists The Atlas of Morocco, Taifa Stars stats were dismal to say the least. Out of the last ten matches, before woefully surrendering to the Moroccans, competitive games, the team had scored only a paltry three goals while conceding a hefty 15 goals. Our goal scoring ratio is 0.3 per match while our defensive capability ratio is at the basement of 1.5.

What does that mean when facing a formidable Moroccan, well grilled outfit, with enormous talent mostly trading her talent in top soccer European nations when your goal scoring ratio stands at 0.3? These ominous stats were on the display during our maiden match where despite most pundits foreshadowing a narrow victory for the Moroccan Atlas might possibly be one to nil, we ended up being rebuked by a pasting of three goals to nil.

Nobody expected Taifa Stars to score, and they were proven dead right after failed to register even a single shot on target in the whole dreadful ninety minutes!

Team’s foreign coach was polarizing and toxic when he failed to control his own mouth, picking wrong fights by criticizing everybody but his own shortcomings and his naive bosses at the TFF.

Gleaning at team selection for the match against Morocco, it was very clear that the coach was not familiar with local soccer talent as he perched his own reputation and career to foreign based players some of whose glorious days on the pitch were already in the wee hours, and should not have even been picked in the team!

Players who seldom play together are not easy to jell them in a few days in order to mold a winning side. The choice of bringing in politicians to play a role of inspirational speakers was laughable, and it was a sick joke to those who know the bolts and nuts of forging a winning mentality.

Politicians are excellent spoilers but poor good builders is a poorly kept secret. Who can motivate players more than those who had faced similar circumstances at AFCON? Retired Taifa Stars players who took part in AFCON tournaments are best motivational speakers than cabinet ministers who never kicked a ball at the highest professional level, and do not have the experience of managing stress and anxieties at that level.

If you are familiar with how our premier league is organised you can see our strength is in organizational flair. We have players who love ball possession and when they defend they make sure the ball would reach their counterparts but before the Atlas of Morocco one thing was startling, the team the coach had selected hated the ball so much that they were happy to hand over the ball to the Moroccans who kept attacking and attacking.

To stop Morocco from beating us we needed a team that was skillfully at keeping the ball, and forcing the opposition to waste a lot of energy chasing for it. But, on that day of reckoning we did everything to turn ourselves into very obliging losers chasing shadows instead of wearing down the opposition with ball possession. The defence lacked pace and was outrun leaving us wondering why the coach settled with slow pacers to snatch an unlikely clean sheet.

Even if you consider the red card incident and even all the cards we picked, were an upshot of cheaply losing the ball, caught off guard and out of position, low ball recovery stats and sheer gross indiscipline!

When players surround the referee trying to twist his hand to decide on their favour is an indicator the team was grappling with disciplinary issues, and the coach is the ultimate culprit for a failure to craft his team to put self discipline above everything else.

It is interesting to note, the Moroccans had no disciplinary action taken against them but talked with their feet while our own players preferred to gesticulate reducing their soccer toil into a despicable shouting hiccup! Little surprise, when there was one emphatic winner, and that winner was not our puffing complainers who would be remembered for meekly throwing a towel above everything else.

Yesterday evening, we braced ourselves to watch Taifa Stars facing a familiar foe of Zambia but stats are stacked against us. Where our scoring ratio is 0.3 Zambia scoring ratio for the same number of 10 matches is 1.8.

Zambia has a 90% chance of scoring against us while we dodder at 30%. But as usual we failed to take advantage of 10 players remained from Zambia after one player got the red card, we led by 1-0 by the time and still we couldn’t defend our goal and play with spirit to increase our scoring opportunity. We had all the chances to win more goals but we were so “Boring” with that play at the second half. Yes, with too much back ball..!

Zambia last performance against the DRC should’ve left us concerned that we may be heading home even before we meet the DRC in our last match. Two losses means you are going home empty-handed, and the last match is a mere formality bereft of consequentials.

In order to arraign pitch anguishes, we need to ask ourselves what we should do to improve on the administration of soccer. Time is nigh to limit soccer administrators to past players who either played for the nation team or in the top leagues, and render those who never plied their skills at the top level not eligible to be given the opportunity to destroy our aspirations.

If we limit leadership positions to only those who have represented this country at international level we will also be killing two birds with one stone: Keeping politician’s dabbling in “everything soccer” for political gain very much on the leash.

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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4 months ago

Well at least someone said something…

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