Tanzania/Burundi: Why We Lost to Burundi, Why We'll Continue

TAIFA Stars went down by one goal to nil against their Burundian counterparts on Sunday, in a match they should have comfortably won had they played like serious, committed players.

They lost through a number of factors which includes, among other things, the dominance of the team by the three Dar es Salaam big guns, Simba, Young Africans and Azam FC.

And, to me it is quite understandable why the Burundian national coach did what he did, fielded more players from the Dar es Salaam clubs and ignored some of the players who had performed better in the Mainland Premier League.

The reason is very simple, FEAR. If you omit Dar city players when the TFF is full of officials from the so called big guns, you are very much likely to be sacked, especially if you lose the match. Therefore, FEAR was the problem.

Dominance of Dar city players and in particular, Simba and Young Africans continues to be part of our undoing. The other problem is of course the heavy presence and reliance on foreign players in the league. That is why the country continues to be locked in agony whenever a player like John Bocco is absent from the team.

Yet the premier league has players like Yusuf Mhilu from Kagera Sugar, who scored 11 goals last season during the premier league. The other player who was left out to the surprise of almost every soccer fan, and who also plays for Kagera Sugar is David Luhende, who was voted as the best left full back in the league.

Now how do you leave out a player like Yusuf out of the team? We all know one of Taifa Stars' problems is in its rear, the defence. Now when this is one of the team's problems, how on earth do you leave out the best left full back in the league?

In the Taifa Stars, Burundi match, the defence cracked in the dying minutes of the match, which is not a surprise to those who have followed the team's performance for many years, and the Burundians scored their lone goal. Were Tanzanian soccer fans surprised in the absence of Luhende in the defence? I don't think so.

Personally, I knew from the start that Taifa Stars were going to be beaten in that game. Had Meddie Kagere been a Taifa Stars player, I'm quite sure we would have comfortably won the match against Burundi. Kagere plays in Tanzania for Simba.

But he is not a Tanzanian! And, this is what former President Jakaya Kikwete warned Young Africans members the other day over a year ago, when he was invited as guest of honour when the club had a fund raising meeting during which the club said it collected over 3bn/-.

The former president said clubs can enjoy winning local and foreign matches through their foreign registered players. But once the time comes for fielding the national team that is where our problem starts. Last Sunday we once again realised that we had no homegrown strikers, the fielding of Mbwana Samatta and Simon Msuva notwithstanding.

Both Turkey and Morocco based Tanzanian players put up a splendid performance. In fact, how good they were, was not when Mbwana Samatta was withdrawn. Our forwards failed to get into the enemy's territory. But when Samatta was around, he took on the Burundian defence.

And, on their part, they spend more time policing him, knowing too well that he held his team's destiny. And this was the time, call it golden opportunity if you like, for the local, somewhat unknown Tanzanian players to take on the Burundian defenders. Unfortunately because of the lack of pedigree in our local players, we failed.

After the match I googled to find out who is who in the Burundian team in terms of where they are playing apart from their own local league. And I was surprised to find out that on the paper, the Burundi team was actually far better than our team. For instance, in Belgium alone there are three players.

Others are in England, France, Austria, the Netherlands, where at least one player is playing in the premier league of that country. Others are in Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Denmark, Egypt, Northern Ireland, Wales, Portugal, Uganda, USA, Tunisia and Tanzania.

Although in most of the countries with the exception of the Netherlands, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia, they are playing in the first or second division, but the fact that they are still being retained, it means that they are good players.

The second difference between our players and Burundian players who are abroad is that most of them if not all were recruited from their soccer academies. What this means is that with time, the Burundian players currently abroad most of whom are under 19, we would soon see them appear in the premier league of the countries I have just listed above.

The question is; how many U-17 players do we have abroad, and in particular, in the European soccer league? I hope we now know why we lost to Burundi last Sunday. And mark you, this is not going to be the last defeat from Burundi.

Burundi has made very good use of the money they get every year from the world's football governing body, Fifa. They spent most of it in training coaches, building sports grounds for soccer academies and training referees.

Our share of the Fifa money was suspended for many years because of our misuse and abuse of the money by past TFF administration. The last Fifa communication was that they would give all the money to the present TFF administration. I hope that process is in the pipeline.

But as you read this piece there are not less than four Burundian coaches in Tanzania who are not only good in coaching but are also fluent in French and most of them have a fairly good working knowledge in English.

This is another area where we are not doing well, languages. Burundi has a number of international referees. We have a problem there, and language could be one of our problems. Let work hard on our problems and now!

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