IN recent days I have closely followed debates in gossip centres and social media on whether enlisting a local or foreign football coach is the best way forward for Tanzania.
On one side are those who say local coaches understand our players better, as well as the country’s environment, culture and traditions and have a feel for the ground situation.
The other group which prefers foreign coaches feels that those recruited from abroad bring international experience that can elevate our boys to play and win in international tournaments and not humiliated in a way such as Simba did when they played AS Vita of the DR Congo or Al Ahly of Egypt.
It is true that there is a possibility for most of the foreign coaches, through the immense experience gained in different places, might bring fresh ideas to the local football scenario.
However, foreign coaches can also be a nuisance by coming up with demands which we did not anticipate when we welcomed them to train our boys.
But whether the new ideas of the coaches from abroad will be of benefit to the development of soccer in our country or otherwise, the results of their success or failure will testify.
I think whether the coach is local or foreign matters little, but what is important is whether he will bring changes for the better by raising the standard of our players.
It is also important for the coach to be able to bring to the team an inspiring leadership and strong relationships not only among players, but also between team members and club officials.
The coach is in fact the key to building an effective football team by building effective strategies against opposing teams and shifting the right tactics when necessary.
A good coach is one who can quickly give the team a positive attitude towards overcoming obstacles that lie in the path towards success. They are expected to step in and help solve problems which emerge among players as well as officials of the team.
That is why in some countries the coaches are identified as managers. You may have good players, but success hardly comes if the coach fails to mould a collective mindset to shine through.
In the list of many foreign coaches who came to Tanzania over the years, Milan Celebic of Yugoslavia and Brazilian Marcio Maximo, who trained the national team at different times and Victor Stanculescu of Young Africans, were outstanding and exceptional.
Those were the days when Young Africans and Simba were known in North and West Africa as the Southern African giant killers.
I was very much impressed by Celebic and Stanculescu because apart from being experts in delivering sports skills to the players, they also had basic knowledge of first aid care and prevention of injuries.
They were also very close to the players outside the pitch. I didn’t see the qualities of the foreign coaches I have mentioned (I stand to be corrected) on most of the foreign coaches employed by our national teams and clubs in recent years.
Some foreign coaches, with due respect to those who recruited them, could perhaps be right to say that they came to Tanzania on holiday and were not worth the packages they took at the start of the contract, while on duty and at the end of their assignments.
Coaches in their leadership role are supposed to help the players see their clear roles and to know what they are supposed to do specifically as individuals while performing as a team.
In soccer, individual clarity means the player understands his role in whatever formation the team plays, but some of the coaches (if they are worth that title) we have recruited from abroad have given indications of assuming any group of players can automatically be a team.
To them, 11 players form a team, even if some of them are just passengers actually a burden to fellow players. One of the biggest reasons our teams usually misfire, is because of personality differences among our players and most of our local coaches know it, even when they are outside the team.
We must also not ignore the fact that it takes time for many reasons, including language barrier, for a foreign coach to know the inside stories of these personality clashes.
Back to the question of whether a local or foreign coach would be better for the national football team. My take is that it doesn’t matter. What matters is about his performance and the results of his work in and outside the pitch.
I still think we have good, qualified and tested local coaches around of the caliber of Shaabani Marijani, Joel Bendera, Paul West Gwivaha and Ray Gama (all deceased), but we don’t utilise them to the maximum as we did to their predecessors.
Sometimes we rush to get a foreign coach without knowing details of his background information. While we have often exercised tolerance to coaches recruited from abroad we have been too quick to show our local coaches the exit door when our teams don’t perform well.
A team may have the best of individual talents, but unless they are led by an inspiring leader (coach), who can see beyond great tactics, it falls short of being a high performing team.
This is in my opinion what haunts the Tanzanian football scenario within the clubs and the national team. We have to apply a reverse gear, see where we have come from and where we are now.
Officials of the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) and our clubs ought to look for coaches who can deliver by performing as leaders.
We should avoid picking individuals because they were good soccer players or have a basket full of credentials to show that they attended courses in some of the world’s most respected football coaching institutions.