interviewBy Deodatus Balile
Dar es Salaam — Ramadhan Dau, director general of Tanzania's National Social Security Fund (NSSF), said the fund will invest 500 million shillings ($320,000) in football next year.
Dau said the state company, which manages the pensions of Tanzania's workers, had previously invested in the real estate market to sustain its cash flow, but following a review of a recent feasibility study the managing board decided to invest in football instead.
Next year's investment will be just the starting point of what Dau calls a long-term investment vehicle for NSSF that can help create jobs and provide a return to fund contributors.
Dau, a former University of Dar es Salaam lecturer and a self-described football fanatic, sat with Sabahi to discuss why the NSSF felt compelled to invest in football and how it plans to make the project profitable for fund contributors.
Sabahi: Tanzanians love football, but the country continuously fares poorly in most international tournaments. What can be done to improve football standards?
Ramadhan Dau: We have healthy and talented youth. Football is the number one game in the country in terms of the number of fans. Fans are willing to pay entrance fees even with these poor results. I wondered what we were missing as a country and the answer is very clear: We lack serious football management.
Sabahi: What is the NSSF planning to do about it?
Dau: In the last NSSF board meeting [held in December], we agreed that we cannot remain bystanders. As an organisation that stands for hope, we decided to invest substantially in football. We have set aside 500 million Tanzanian shillings ($320,000) in the 2013 budget to invest in football.
Last October, I travelled to Manchester in the United Kingdom to set the grounds for this. We want to enter into contracts with world-class teams to enjoy their technical support in our endeavour to revive football in Tanzania.
For starters, we will enrol kids [aged 7 to 13]. They will be given standard trainings that include physical training and psychological conditioning to become good footballers. We will employ doctors to take care of them and provide a balanced diet to maintain stable health. These young, talented players will go to school in the morning and come back to [the camp] in the evening for football trainings.
Sabahi: When you travelled to the United Kingdom, what was the response of people there?
Dau: The response was very good. I met [Manchester United manager] Sir Alex Ferguson who was very much impressed with the plan. As it goes, their co-operation [with international clubs] is going to be more than [providing technical support]. The NSSF will nurture these younger players to the ages of 15 and 17, then we will [help them secure contracts with] big clubs from Europe or other interested countries in the world.
I had said that the big problem for our football is management. We want to do away with that problem. After spotting [talented] young boys, we will enter into a contract with them [with approval from] their parents.
We will pay them monthly salaries and that money will go straight to their personal bank accounts. Those funds will be available [for their personal use] as NSSF will pay for their upkeeps and school fees throughout the contract period.
The contract will allow NSSF to recover invested cost once the player is sold abroad. This means we will produce quality players capable of paying back invested cost. For example if we spend something like $1 million to $3 million for say a period of five to eight years to train a player, and manage to sell the player to world class clubs for just $8 million, this means we will recover the cost and share the profit. That way we will sustain the project.
Sabahi: What is the next step in the plan?
Dau: The vision is to build a football academy, but we do not want to wait. At the beginning of next year, we will rent a building and convert it into a [dormitory]. These young talented players will continue to go to school in public schools while we finalise the process of building an academy in the suburbs of Dar es Salaam.
Sabahi: How many players will you recruit and what will be the criteria?
Dau: We have budgeted for 50 players for 2013. But as we go on, the number will increase to about 300. That is our target in the next 10 years. We are going to use inter-school competitions [to select students]. From kindergarten, we will start spotting the talents of students throughout the country and nurture them.
Sabahi: How will this benefit the country and help to improve football?
Dau: It is very clear. First of all, [the NSSF] will have a football club that will participate in our national premier league. With motivated players who are well trained and well paid, I am sure they will pull up the premier league standard.
Sabahi: In December, FIFA, the international organisation that governs football and organises the World Cup, ranked Tanzania 130th out of 207 members. What position can Tanzania achieve with the NSSF investment?
Dau: Our immediate target is within the top 50 positions. [After that], we will strive to be in the top 30 countries and continue to push up, eyeing number one. I do not see why we should not.
Sabahi: What is the NSSF's biggest goal with this programme?
Dau: Our first and only participation in the Africa Cup of Nations was in 1980. We have never participated in the World Cup as a country. Now we should be there. It has been a long wait and the NSSF is committed to turning around this unacceptable situation.