Tanzania: Expensive Low Quality Players Raise Questions

YOUNG Africans this week provided their traditional rivals, Simba with a lot of lessons to learn from, especially if they really want to do well in their Group stages of the Champions League.

As I had rightly noted in my Saturday's Sports Column last week on the final between the two traditional rivals which was played on Wednesday this week at Amaan Stadium in Zanzibar, Young Africans provided Simba with a lot of thought. The first lesson was in the realm of penalty taking.

Young Africans were calm and more composed. They appeared to have anticipated a stalemate in their game and had therefore worked on their penalty taking exercise. Simba were completely unprepared for the event, which was a big mistake for a team of their calibre.

They will now have to include penalty taking in their training programme as part of their preparation for the Group stages of the Champions League. In fact, a glance at past Mapinduzi Cup finals shows that there have been a couple of finals being won on spot kick after stalemate at the end of regulation time and added 30 minutes extra time.

After their last league outing during which both clubs ended in a one all draw, Simba should have anticipated the likelihood of a stalemate. But that they did not just go to show how unprepared they were! The second major lesson was in the realm of registration of players.

After their victory, Young Africans fans ridiculed their opponents for having a very expensive, but toothless squad. They had a point. Indeed, it does not make sense to spend more money than your arch rivals in buying players who are however, poor when it comes to performance on the pitch.

And this is exactly what the Simba squad is facing at the moment. They have a bloated, but very expensive squad but which has already lost two matches in the league against nondescript sides! What does this mean? It is simple, the quality of their squad is not reflected by their heavy investment on it.

In Simba's squad there is only one player who is worth the money he was bought for, and that player is Zambia's vicecaptain, Chama. The rest of foreign players are neither here nor there!

Simba now need to use the January window to off-load their poor foreign legion and replace them with few, but quality players if they want to do better in the present Group stages of the Champions League. Otherwise they are very much likely to do worse than they did in the last Group stages.

The Tanzania Football Federation has allowed Premier League clubs each to register ten foreign players. What clubs like Simba, Young Africans and Azam (who unlike other clubs in the league have lots of money) should do is get quality players and not the kind of players all of them have at the moment.

Now what do I mean when I talk of quality players. Quality players are like Simba's Chama. He is not only a very good player, but he is also the vice captain of his country's national soccer team, Chipolopolo. Now if Simba have even six players of Chama's calibre they could easily become a candidate for the Champions League crown.

If the investor has money for ten foreign players, then it is important that all the ten players should be of Chama's calibre.

If their quality is less than that of Chama, then there could be only one thing going on, getting low quality players but spending more money than the value of the players and it would be extremely difficult for such a club not to be suspected of being involved in dirty deals!

Simba, Young Africans and Azam need to be extremely careful when it comes to buying foreign players. Foreign players are a product, a commodity just like any commodity and they carry their price tags. If you buy a foreign player, I expect you to buy a player who is a regular in his national soccer team.

I don't expect a club to buy a player who warms up his national soccer team's benches. If the player is a reserve in Harambee Stars, please don't bring him to Tanzania. If you bring to Tanzania players who are not playing for their respective national soccer teams, then don't complain when the government accuses you of being involved in money laundering!

Last week was very hectic in the realm of soccer. Apart from the Simba, Young Africans encounter in Zanzibar, we also had the friendly match between Taifa Stars and their counterparts from the Democratic Republic of Congo who in the past used to be referred to as Les Leopards.

After President Magufuli's warning over the role of Simba and Young Africans in the national soccer team, both TFF and the Burundian coach took a cue from the President and came up with a very good team which held their own against their counterparts.

I have described our new team as a good team because they played against a regular DRC national soccer team which was made up of three top flight clubs, TP Mazembe, DC Motema Pembe and AS Vita. The three Congolese soccer clubs have won between them the CAF Cup and the Champions League seven times!

And the national soccer team won AFCON in 1974 and was one of the first African countries to represent Africa in the Fifa World Cup. Vita is in the same group with Simba in the Champions League. Now for Taifa Stars to hold the Congolese team to one all draw is something we all need to congratulate them and their coach.

It is our hope they will do well in the CHAN tournament in Cameroon. Going forward, we now expect the TFF to provide them with numerous friendly matches that will help in shaping them into a strong team.

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