TAIFA Stars players and technical bench have been challenged not to lose hope and fight to qualify for the next Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), finals.
This challenge was thrown to them by the Minister for information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Harrison Mwakyembe, who was at hand to welcome the national team back home which arrived yesterday afternoon at the Julius Nyerere International Airport from Egypt.
Taifa Stars ended their campaign at the ongoing 2019 AFCON finals in Egypt without a point after losing their entire group C matches.
The Emmanuel Amunike led charges, who made a return to the tournament after a 39-year absence, lost their opening game to Senegal 2-0 at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo on June 23rd, before suffering a narrow 3-2 defeat to their East African neighbours Kenya at the same venue on June 27th.
Stars succumbed to 3-0 defeat at the hands of Algeria's Desert Foxes at the 30 June Stadium late on Monday night, to end their campaign in the competition without a point.
Adam Ounas brace and Islam Slimani's strike condemned the Taifa Stars to their third consecutive defeat as they bowed out of the continental tournament shipping in eight goals and managed to score only two goals.
Regardless, Minister Mwakyembe said players gave their all throughout the campaign and he sees room for improvement. "It is important to encourage our players and athletes in all other sports to keep working hard.
"Tanzania is well known in the world for producing athletes who never give up, the best example is former runner, John Stephen Akhwari, who made his name in the 1968 Summer Olympics Games in Mexico City," said Mwakyembe. Akhwari fell to the ground, gashing his knee and also causing a dislocation.
He also smashed his shoulder against the pavement. Most observers, seeing his injuries, assumed he would pull out and go to hospital. Instead, he received medical attention and returned to the track to continue his race. His pace, of course, was now much slower, but his resolve to complete the event remained intact.
Eighteen of the 75 starters had pulled out; he did not wish to add to that number. He was asked why he'd carried on, and his response has gone down in sporting history.
"My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race," he said. "They sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race." Adding, Minister Mwakyembe said the mistakes committed by the team have been observed and hopefully everyone involved will work hard to rectify them and the team will come up strong in future tournaments.
Speaking at the same occasion, Chairman of the Special Committee formed to steer support the team's campaign in the finals, who is also the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner (RC), Paul Makonda, said Stars have a promising future.
"Ours is a promising team but we were only unlucky in some occasion especially in the match against Kenya. The committee has learned some lessons and surely we will keep improving in the future," he said. Several pundits have said the 2019 AFCON finals was the learning curve for Taifa Stars the but deep questions must be asked about the team's defence.
"This tournament has been the learning curve for Tanzania and it has been a cold room, which most of time they found too hot. They made too many mistakes in defence," Shaun Bartlett, the former South African football striker said. Former Kenyan international Musa Otieno said Taifa Stars are going to learn some lesson in defence.
"They need to have discipline in the pitch and off the pitch. They need to know once they lose the ball, how are they regrouping. Are they winning the ball as quickly as possible? Nigerian legend, Jay Jay Okocha also said Taifa Stars will go home knowing that they did not do well.