THE government’s decision to re-start sports, and by extension the Mainland Premier League on June 1st this year, means clubs in the top-flight league have less than two weeks to prepare.
But players, and not teams, who have been training, individually, at their respective homes will have no problems even if the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) decides that the premier league will kick off on June 1st.
But for players who had decided to conduct themselves as non-professionals, they will not only have problems in coping up in their matches, after almost three months of inactivity, but are likely to cost their clubs dearly.
Had the premier league been stopped in the first or second month of the league, clubs would have suffered quite considerably having spent billions of shillings buying the players. But the beauty of the prevailing situation is that in July this year is the opening of the window for registration of new players.
And, what this means is that players who did not train during the sports lockdown and who fail to produce the performance of their life would simply be kicked out of their respective clubs. For no club managers who have the right senses would reregister a player who had been registered for millions of shillings but fails to perform at the end of the league.
Simply put, the re-start of the premier league comes at a time when club leaders who have the last decision to register or not to are well placed than ever before, but are also provided with the best opportunity of getting the right crop of players for next season.
For instance, if they want disciplined players, the re-start of the league would provide them with the opportunity of finding out the players who had trained hard during the over three months sports lockdown. Why? This is because it is only a disciplined and professional minded player who can train on his own and at his home whether he is told to do so by his coach or not.
But for players who have not been training during the past three months, but decide to train now after the government’s announcement on sports, will not be in a tip-top form when the league kicks off on June 1st. And if leaders of their clubs are serious, such players ought to be told to close the door from outside.
This is the time for leaders of premier league clubs to be serious with registration, especially of disciplined players. Otherwise they are headed for a cul-desack. But self-training or no selftraining, clubs which are likely to have an upper hand in the league are those which have no foreign players in their line-up, clubs which are solely made up of local players.
I’m saying that because clubs like Simba, Young Africans and Azam FC which have plenty of foreign players may have problems if their players are not in the country. And the sports lockdown should perhaps serve as a major lessons to our clubs on the importance of building their teams around local players no matter how well placed they are in buying foreign players.
The point is, no matter the number of foreign players a club is allowed to buy, the priority should always be to firstly build their own local players and build the squad around such players.
And when a decision is finally made to buy a couple of foreign players, then they need to spend their money judiciously by buying the best players in the market, the kind of player who is not yet in the country. The issue is therefore not the number (quantity) of the players, but rather the quality of the players.
It does not make sense to buy a foreign player who does not bring any difference both in the team and the country at large. Professional European clubs like Man United, Man City, Liverpool and others don’t buy a player who has been dropped by his own national soccer team.
In fact, before they buy a player, one of the things they look for are what are referred to as CAPS, namely, the number of appearances that a player has had in his own national soccer teams. The minimum caps they can take a player is if he has appeared for his national soccer team 21 times.
Having established the number of caps, the club analyses the player’s ability on the pitch and his professionalism on and off the pitch. In the past, Tanzanians did not have their own measure of what kind of player is likely to attract a top flight English club or play for any top flight league in Europe.
Fortunately, that is no longer a problem. They now have Mbwana Samatta currently with Aston Villa. Samatta’s level of performance in the English premier league is such that even if his club is relegated, he will not go down with the club. He would be bought by clubs that remain in the top flight.
Why? Because of his high soccer performance he has demonstrated even in his present club and his professionalism on the pitch and outside. In terms of caps, he has played for Taifa Stars more than his colleagues in Aston Villa have done for their own respective national soccer teams.
What is more, Samatta has a Champions League gold medal he won with his TP Mazembe team and that is not a mean achievement. In conclusion, our premier league clubs ought to go for the best players for next season and the re-start of the league provide them with the golden opportunity of gauging how professional their present players are.
• Attilio Tagalile is a journalist/ author and media consultant based in Dar es Salaam and can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org