TOMORROW East and Central Africans are expected to converge at the Dar es Salaam’s sprawling 60,000 seat National Stadium to savour English Premier League when one of their own, Ronald Koeman’s Everton take on Kenya’s Gor Mahia.
Gor Mahia got the ticket of taking on the English Premier League club tomorrow after they successfully licked Kenyan and Tanzanian oppositions through the Tanzania based, SportPesa’s organised soccer tournament.
Our (Tanzanians) failure to produce a club which could have successfully taken on Kenyan opposition, including Gor, is perhaps the first major lesson we need to keep in the back of our mind as we watch the match tomorrow. It’s certainly going to be very painful watching Gor players savouring English soccer in full view of Tanzanian soccer fans.
But that is what football is all about. In 2014 Brazil lost heavily, against eventual winners, Germany, at home when they hosted the Fifa World Cup. But the same Germany team that had beaten the Brazilians by 7 goals were beaten by Brazil when they hosted the Fifa World Cup in Germany in 2006.
But the good thing about the Germans, they leant massive lessons from that defeat and they are now licking the world. But are Tanzanians going to learn any lesson from their failure to ensure that they took on Everton tomorrow?
However, we know why we failed. Yes, we failed because we had, for too long, heavily relied on archaic means of preparing our young men and women in the beautiful game. And, the end result is what we would be watching tomorrow, two very good teams, but both of them foreign taking on one another in our own backyard!
Therefore, if there is any lesson to be learnt, starting tomorrow, it would be Kenyan footballers. They stand to learn later through Gor Mahia when the latter gets back home in their local league. But much as we lost, through competition, the opportunity of any of our clubs taking on the English club; there is however, a way the government could step in and organise a match for a Tanzanian team against the visiting English club.
The government, through the minister responsible for, among others, sports could extend Everton’s stay in the country as Tanzania government’s guests. But doing that is not going to be cheap. It would cost the government a lot of money.
The fourth phase administration of President Jakaya Kikwete did that when they paid for the Brazilian national soccer team during the official opening of the National Stadium. However, part of that money could easily be recouped through gate collections.
Keeping Everton’s as government’s guests may be extremely expensive, but if we look at the whole issue as part of promoting tourism, such costs are nothing. For instance, as part of the buying (of the Everton FC) package, the government could foot Everton players’ visit to our national parks or game reserves.
Pictures and videos capturing their visits in our national parks or game reserve would go a long way towards promoting tourism in our country. The fact that former Manchester United’s David Beckham visited Serengeti National Park with his family just goes to show how the government could seize the golden opportunity presented by Everton’s historic visit to Tanzania.
In 1968 an English premier league FA winner, West Bromwich Albion, led by English national team striker, Jeff Astle, visited Tanzania during their East African tour. West Bromwich Albion would go on to beat all teams in the region, except in Tanzania.
During their first match, in the region, they took on the Tanzania national soccer team which had yet to get its present Taifa Stars name. Through the match that ended in a one-all draw, Tanzania soccer fans were able to see the danger posed by the visitors’ striker, Jeff Astle.
And in the second match against Dar es Salaam combine, Dar’s central defender, Athuman Kilambo policed, Jeff Astle, to the letter. But Kilambo, he who had effectively guarded the English striker, in the 89th minute he forgot Astle.
The latter would rise in the air like a salmon fish in the Ocean and equalised through a header. But when the English club landed in Kenya and Uganda, they turned their tour into a proper holiday the tour was supposed to be, winning all their matches.
The million dollar question tomorrow is would Gor Mahia succeed in stopping Everton in their tracks? For Gor Mahia players, the beauty of their encounter with the visiting English premier league club tomorrow is that they would, literally, be in the market.
English soccer scouts would be all out to watch Kenyan talents on display, and this would be happening before the end of the registration season in England. And the fact that there are Kenyan players in England one of whom is Tottenham Hotspurs’ midfield dynamo, Victor Wanyama, the scouts are going to watch tomorrow’s match with very keen interest.
Unlike European players, African soccer players are cheap and that is how European soccer clubs got the likes of Wanyama, Mac Donald Mariga, Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure and the rest. They got them almost at a throw-away price and sold them away at a fortune.
For instance, Arsenal got Kolo Toure for 500,000 sterling pounds. But sold him away at a salivating price. But for Gor players to fetch any price in their game against Everton tomorrow, they would have to play football as it should be, to showcase their talent.
During the SportPesa tournament two months ago, Gor Mahia were, arguably, the best team in the region. They won the best team title not only for lifting the SportPesa trophy, but also by winning the best player of the tournament.