THE SportPesa Super Cup mini final between Simba Sports Club and Gor Mahia played at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru, Kenya, last Sunday was a true reflection of how far the level of the game in Tanzania has plummeted.
I have deliberately referred to the final as mini because the really final would be played at the Goodson Park in England between Gor Mahia and the English Premier League club, Everton, who are SportPesa defending champions having won the coveted trophy in Dar last year after beating Gor Mahia by 2-1.
In the Sunday match, Gor Mahia who dominated the proceedings in each and every department beat Simba 2-0. As I have repeatedly noted in my sports columns, I have no problem with a team being beaten. This is because in any sporting event, there is always a winner and a loser. However, my problem with Simba last Sunday is, firstly, they did not play as a team; and for a club which had just won the Vodacom Premier League their Sunday performance was nothing but unacceptable.
Secondly, and perhaps more disheartening was the fact that from the start of the match to the end, Simba failed to exhibit their knowledge in basic football, and again that’s extremely serious for a team that is supposed to represent Tanzania in the coming season, not in the lesser CAF Cup, but rather in the continent’s version of the Champions League.
In the Champions League Simba is expected to play against African champions which include, among others, teams like Gor Mahia which is also no match to teams from northern and West African sides. According to Simba, the team that played against Gor Mahia last Sunday did not have seven first team players that included John Bocco and the Ugandan international, Emmanuel Okwi.
Simba further argued that the seven plus players absent from the Nakuru’s SportPesa tournament had been allowed to go on leave after the end of the Vodacom Premier League. The problem I have with the foregoing arguments is why did Simba management allow some of their key players to go on leave after the end of the VPL when they knew that there was a very important tournament in the offing? I’m raising this question because commonsense (which of course, is sometimes not very common) should have dictated to Simba management that participation of their full team in the SportPesa tournament would have prepared their team in readiness for the forthcoming Champions League.
Simba have not participated in the Champions League in the last five years due to their failure to win the VPL; and I’m not quite sure they have both the time and the requisite resources for taking their team outside the country for trial matches before the onset of the continental club tournament.
Again, I’m raising the above point because it has almost become a tradition for Tanzania soccer clubs and national teams to take part in continental tournaments without providing top notch international trial matches for their teams and the reason for that has been either through lack of time or funding.
And, because this is a long standing problem, one would have expected the Simba management to have seized the golden opportunity provided by the SportPesa tournament in subjecting their full squad in the tournament. Indeed, the SportPesa Super Cup tournament could have also been used by the Simba technical bench in trying their newly signed players which I was brought to understand had made the bulk of the Simba team last Sunday.
What shocked me most in that Sunday match was the inability of Simba players to string more than two, correct passes throughout the entire match! What shocks me is that this team which could not even string together more than two correct passes is under two foreign coaches, although I’m told that the high profile French coach has dumped Simba for another west African team.
My question is what has this team been doing in the short period that the team was under the French and Burundian coaches? Again, I’m raising this question because VPL teams under local coaches have been doing better than what was show-cased by Simba last Sunday.
In fact, one of the teams that did better than what Simba did last Sunday is Singida United, much as they were knocked out by the same team, Gor Mahia, in the second semifinal. Surely, Simba will have to work extremely hard on their clumsy players in the few weeks to come if they want to be challengers in CAF Champions League.
A letter below was emailed to my address in response content in Touchline Article Odero Ominarianda To:tagalileattilio@yahoo. co.uk 11 Jun at 16:16 This response may be long overdue, but I find the content of your article dated 24 February, 2018 in the Daily News weighty and plausible. While I may wish to digress from the Fifa summit held in Dar early this year upon which you premised a trajectory to develop football not only in Tanzania but the larger East and Central Africa, I will, with great interest, note two key highlights of this development as implied in your article; institutionalisation and commercialisation of football.
It is evident the pedigree of players we produce in East Africa, apart from the countable Mbwana Samatta of Tanzania, Wanyama of Kenya or Ronald Mukiibi of Uganda, are half baked, less competitive and majority hardly make it out of their respective national domestic leagues. In Europe, art is first an institution then an industry.
Football is not only a game but an investment and a key economic driver like agriculture or tourism is to our economies locally. This explains the quality, professionalism and competitiveness of both their leagues and national teams. Institutionalisation of football will deal with nurturing of already tapped talents into potential and dependable professional players.
While commercialisation will enhance sustainability through creating favorable atmosphere for investing in football. Nurture can be achieved though setting up academies and providing them with relevant material (equipment), technical and financial support.
A good example of what both commercialisation and institutionalisation can achieve is ALLIANCE FC from Mwanza, recently promoted to the top footballing tier of the mainland Premier League in Tanzania. Serengeti Boys can equally attest to this. In order to enhance continuity and competitiveness of national team performance in East and Central Africa, respective federations should roll out and implement comprehensive framework for developing football across stages and categories of player development, with specific focus on youth stage.
This will ensure automatic transition and progression of a player into the next stage, well molded. Regards