THE other day, a few hours before Taifa Stars were to play Cape Verde, a friend asked me what did I expect from this match after a humiliating 3-0 defeat in an earlier encounter in the West African country.
My response was very simple. I told him that I was keeping my fingers crossed as I pray for the best while preparing for the worst. Frankly speaking, after a very disappointing performance in earlier matches in this competition I gave the Stars little chance of even forcing a draw in their last Tuesday's game.
But as many Tanzanians I was so delighted with what I can say was a pleasant surprise that our players gave us when they pulled an impressive 2-0 victory in their Group L return match in Dar es Salaam last Tuesday.
There is no argument that most of the fans, taking into consideration the performance of the Stars in their previous matches expected this game to prove a hard nut to crack.
But the results have shed light to our long cherished dream of moving forward and book the ticket for the next year's finals in Cameroon for the second time in the history of the competition.
Our first and only qualification was in the 12th edition of the 1980 finals held in Nigeria. At that time only eight teams, split into two groups of four, qualified for the finals while the next year's finals will have 24 teams which will be divided into six groups.
The win on Tuesday has presented us a perfect opportunity to be able to achieve our long cherished dream of almost four decades to qualify once more for the finals of this most prestigious continental tournament.
It is very important for Taifa Stars to realise that what they achieved last Tuesday was to unplug the reverse gear and be able to move forward with confidence. Any mistake in the remaining two matches in their qualification group may cost us dearly and fail to book the ticket to Cameroon.
Our players must get away with the old tradition of looking at an away match as one of having a strategy not to lose, instead of going all out to emerge victorious. We must now as well as later play our matches to win, be at home or away.
The players must ensure that they do as much they can to minimise stray passes that were a feature in most their previous matches except the last one.
Our players must also understand that their 2-0 victory over Cape Verde has raised fresh hopes to many Tanzanians who have for a long period felt that they were taking part in this tournament as passengers rather than competitors.
It is a pity while some small countries in size and population compared to Tanzania and with a weak economy and at times with political instability have been able to qualify for the finals of this African prestigious competition as many as 10 times we have managed only once. It is a pity.
Let us now write new chapter and our previous poor performances be just part of history. What our soccer fans are now looking forward is victory in the remaining two matches in the group so that will make Tanzania a force to be reckoned with in the game in the African continent.
Tanzanians are tired and disappointed of being considered as a mythical emblem of past glories rather than a nation with players who can begin a new era of dominance.
We must do all we can to recapture the glory of our famous squad which qualified for the 1980 finals in Nigeria.
I am now confident, after being very doubtful until the last whistle was blown in our last match on Tuesday against a well drilled Cape Verde team our players can achieve something special to emulate their illustrious predecessors under the captaincy of the cool, but no nonsense, centre back Jella Mtagwa.
Our soccer ambassadors must not ignore the fact that our people, perhaps now more than any other time in the recent past, badly need peace, stability, comfort and pleasure.
Victory in international football tournaments is one way that can bring about cohesion and togetherness. But the fans must also come out in full force to support Taifa Stars and keep aside their local rivalry in soccer.
They should keep their club partisanship aside and the nation must come first. No doubt if we qualify for the next AFCON finals it will go a long way to help our people more united, at least in cheering the national team and be proud of it.
Good luck Taifa Stars and all the best.