THE CECAFA senior soccer tournament kicked off over the weekend in Kampala, Uganda and as usual it had surprises of its own which was this time staged by Eritrea when they edged out Burundi by one goal to nil.
This was a major surprise if you consider the fact that Burundi had qualified in this year's Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) held in Cairo in June. Although they finished the tournament without winning a match just like their Tanzanian counterparts, but getting to Afcon finals was certainly no mean achievement for Burundi.
The lesson that was sent by Eritrea to the rest of the CECAFA members is that football is no longer what they used to think it was when they were locked in, in their comfort zones of believing that they were the best. Beating Burundi was quite a feat for Eritrea, especially if you consider the fact that the Burundi team is a product of soccer academy.
This can only mean that just like Burundi, the Eritreans have also embarked on soccer development through soccer academies and CECAFA members need to sit up and work. Burundi had already been crashed by the hosts, Uganda Cranes who beat them 2-1.
The Burundians will now need a miracle to win their two remaining matches, hence qualify for the semifinal. Tanzania Mainland, which is presently under former Coastal Union Striker, Juma Mgunda went down 0-1 to their arch rivals, Kenya, over the weekend.
As I was working on my column yesterday, Tanzania Mainland were supposed to have taken on their brothers, Zanzibar who are better drilled than mainlanders. But there was one thing I noted in this tournament which is perhaps worthy noting, especially by the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF).
Kenyan and Ugandan teams are the kind of outfit we are used to. Most of the players are between U-17 and slightly over that. What does that tell you? It's quite simple. Unlike Tanzania Mainland and perhaps Zanzibar, Kenya and Uganda are preparing new national teams!
In short, they are using the CECAFA soccer tournament in fine tuning their future teams and they are doing that in really competitive soccer tournaments.
And that is what we should all be doing. What is interesting about Mgunda and his technical bench, they brought Tanzania's wonder boy, Kelvin John all the way from Britain not to play him, but keep him on the bench! Now that can only happen in Tanzania.
Mgunda should have picked most of his players from Serengeti Boys and young, promising premier league players instead of recycling the same Taifa Stars players. If you cannot use regional soccer tournament in preparing your future teams which soccer tournament are you going to use?
Alternatively, they should have picked the best Taifa Stars team (minus of course isles players) and used the tournament in preparing it for the Afcon qualifications. The point is, the Kenyan team that beat Tanzania Mainland by one goal to nil is a new team which is being prepared as a new Harambee Stars team.
The new Uganda Cranes which like the Kenyan team is made up of Under-20 something players and the team has won all their first two matches. And that clearly shows how good they are. In fact, according to my Ugandan sources, the Ugandan soccer federation has four Uganda national soccer teams.
The four teams are usually raised, depending on the kind of soccer tournament the Ugandan federation wants to participate in. The new Uganda Cranes has already won their first two matches. They beat Somalia 2-0 and Burundi 2-1 and have already qualified for the semifinals.
The foregoing are lessons that our federation need to learn if they really want to help Tanzania is its quest for soccer development. The good news that filtered on Monday was the success of Kilimanjaro Queens U-17 who beat their Eritrean counterparts by five goals to nil.
As I had occasion to note in my last column, I think it is proper for Tanzanians to start in investing in our young women who have been performing better than their brothers. Let's refrain from putting the proverbial eggs in one basket. We also need to start working on other sports disciplines.