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Dodge as we may, soccer academy remains panacea

ON Wednesday this week, I wrote in my sports column on some of the factors which may have led to the Taifa Stars’ defeat in their Fifa organised friendly match against their Burundi counterparts last Sunday.

To recap my arguments, I pointed out the factors as the absence of home grown strikers, heavy reliance on street produced soccer players, and of course, the heavy presence of foreign registered players.

Starting with the last reason, when your Premier League is loaded with foreign registered players and heavily, dominated by local players who have been produced through the streets, there is nothing that local players can learn or gain from the soccer-academy trained foreign registered players, most of them loaded with basic football knowledge.

This is because our street produced players most of whom are already over 18, lack soccer basics which is one of the main difference between them and soccer academy trained players. In fact, this also explains why to date we still have only one Tanzanian player in a top flight European league in Mbwana Samatta.

For unlike other Tanzanian players, Samatta had a glimpse of soccer academy as he was growing up through the TFF’s short-lived soccer academy at the Karume Memorial Stadium. These were the golden days during the reign of Leodgar Shilla Tenga. But don’t ask me why the soccer academy has ceased to exist.

The other player who went through the short-lived soccer academy was Thomas Ulimwengu, currently with his former club, TP Mazembe. Again, this explains why Ulimwengu is still outside the country having played, briefly, for an Algerian top flight soccer club.

Ulimwengu is still hanging around abroad because like his friend, Samatta currently with Turkey’s Fenebahce, he is well, schooled in the playing top-flight professional foreign soccer clubs.

A couple of Tanzanian players were until recently playing for a number of top flight African and European clubs but some of them failed to meet the high demands of such clubs and are now back home where anything goes.

Perhaps the only players who may not have gone through soccer academies but are still hanging out of the country and are doing quite well include Simon Msuva and Himid Mao who is still playing for a top flight Egyptian soccer club.

Last year he became a free player after completing the first contract with an Egyptian soccer club and was snapped up by another Egyptian club, Petrojet, for a three years contract which will keep him until the end of next year.

The Tanzanian midfielder who has 38 caps for Taifa Stars has become used both to the Egyptian weather and playing environment and that explains why top flight Egyptian soccer club still find him useful. It is this kind of experience that has continued to keep abroad other Tanzanian soccer players like Ulimwengu, Mao, Msuva and Samatta.

If you look critically at the four Tanzanian soccer players you would realise one thing and that is they are quite different, in terms of attitudes, with the local players we have in the country. The four players are not only equipped with the right attitude for professional soccer but they are also highly disciplined and workaholic.

You cannot survive in the world of professional soccer if you’re given to marijuana smoking, lack of seriousness and laziness. For instance, a sad story is told of this highly gifted, Dar es Salaam- based soccer player who was very much sought after by TP Mazembe last season.

The player in question had had discussions through an intermediary, but when TP Mazembe officials arrived in Dar es Salaam for signing purposes with the player, they could not trace him as he had gone into hiding.

And the reason for that, he had preferred a local rather than a foreign club where he was supposed to have earned two thousand more US dollars than what he had signed for the local club. If you asked me why he had done what he did, the reason is very simple; fear of the unknown in a foreign country.

In short, the player has attitude problems which Ulimwengu, Mao, Msuva and Samatta don’t have and that is why they changing around professional soccer clubs where they are. Much as I have always emphasized the importance of our children being plunged into soccer academies from their tender age.

But not all successful professional soccer players have gone through soccer academies. For instance, as I have already noted, out of the four players, only two went through soccer academy.

Yet even those who have not gone through such an elaborate soccer system, they can still make it to the top flight soccer clubs in the world as long as they are focused, have the right attitude and work extremely hard in their respective training.

Short of the foregoing three prerequisites, it is extremely difficult to retain one’s regular number in a highly professional soccer club. But our soccer officials can still reduce our local players’ soccer woes if they established soccer academies for our young, future soccer stars.

And we can do that if we get hold of them from their tender age. Soccer academy does not only provide the right platform for nurturing soccer talents, but it is also a very big business.

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Author: ATTILIO TAGALILE

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