FIFA Ambassador and Ghanaian soccer legend, Abeid Ayew 'Pele', has urged Tanzania to sustain grassroots soccer development programme should the country dream of qualifying for the African Nations Cup (AFCON) and the World Cup finals in future.
Pele has visited the country alongside the FIFA Development Director for the Southern African countries, Ashford Mamelodi and the world soccer governing body's Information Department official, Emmanuel Maradas, to inspect development programmes that are financed by FIFA.
Pele said Tanzanian soccer lovers should hardly be pessimistic when it comes to their country's chances to take part in both AFCON and World Cup finals but will need to work hard in promoting soccer from the grassroots, apart from doing all they can to sustain the programme.
"Don't say you will never qualify for the AFCON and World Cup finals, you can qualify for those events but you need to work hard to realize it", he said, citing Niger and Ethiopia, who have qualified for the next year's AFCON finals, as a case study of persistence in the quest for excellence in the sport.
"There has been so much transformation going around the world in soccer. For instance, you have seen how Cameroun has been eliminated in the 2013 AFCON Qualifiers and how Niger, Ethiopia and Cape Verde have qualified for the finals, so, if you work hard, you will succeed", he added.
The three-time African Footballer of the Year, who has made his maiden visit in the country, showered praises to the youngsters he has seen in the Grassroots Development programme supervised by the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF), saying they are endowed with talent and could scale great heights should they work hard.
"I saw the love of soccer in this country is very encouraging, I have had the opportunity to talk to the U-17 players and I was impressed. I have seen there is a lot of hunger for success...the future is bright in this country's soccer if you continue like this", said Pele.
"From what I saw, the talent is here. I have talked to the boys (National U-17 soccer team) and they told me they are determined to qualify for the next year's U-17 AFCON finals. I wish you all the best and hopefully, when you qualify, we (Ghana) will meet you there". Mamelodi said stability in the TFF leadership and domestic soccer has so far been the biggest attraction to FIFA and the world soccer governing body will keep on financing development programmes in Tanzania should the stability be maintained.
"FIFA has done tremendous job in Tanzania. FIFA will always support a project that has shown progress and Tanzania has shown it can pilot the projects and that is why the body has continued to support the country", he said.
"The Grassroots project is the first to have been established in Tanzania and I'm happy TFF is pushing the programme", added Mamelodi, who originates from Botswana. The FIFA official insisted on the need for Tanzania to work hard in promoting soccer from the grassroots and added that the country's soccer lovers should forget about seeing their national soccer team qualify for such high profile tournaments like AFCON and World Cup finals in just a short space of time.
"If Tanzania will qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, it will be by accident. There is no country in the world that has won the World Cup without having the grassroots programme, you can not rush things", he said. Mamelodi noted that the fourth phase of the FIFA Goal Project will involve the renovation of the Nyamagana Stadium in Mwanza and was optimistic the project will start soon.
Maradas, a veteran sports journalist, concurred with Pele and Mamelodi on tremendous efforts that Tanzania has done in implementing all projects that are financed by FIFA and pointed out that is nothing but good leadership in the country's soccer and stability in the game that has continued attracting FIFA's support.