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Tanzanians have become accustomed to explain and speculate why we do not feature in big competitions while smaller nations like Cape Verde or those with internal conflict e.g. Rwanda manage. What is wrong with Tanzania? We have a similar build to everyone else on the African continent. We share the same trees, mountains, foods, and tribal differences just like the rest. What then are the chances of us finding a place in the 2018 World Cup tournament or the next Olympic in Brazil?
Before further questions, let us look at the stats.

Tanzania has NEVER qualified for the world cup. She has only qualified ONCE for the Africa Cup of Nations (CHAN) in 1980. However, Tanzania was knocked out in the first round. We had some of the best players, including excellent goalkeeper, Athuman Mambosasa and striker Athuman Kajole.

Even at the height of greatest players (Abdallah Kibaden, Maulid Dilunga, Manara brothers, etc) in the 1970s, Tanzania did not quality from 1970 to 1978, or 1984, 1988-1992. Then 1996 -2002 and most recently, 2006 to 2015.

There has been total failure in total withdrawing from the preparatory matches in 1986, 1994 and 2004. Very embarrassing.
In big football nations like Brazil, Argentina, Germany, France, Spain and Italy, a few players make the difference. Pele and Maradona contributed to the victories of Brazil and Argentina. So are some African nations like Ivory Coast through Didier Drogba, the Toure brothers. Or Jay Okocha and Nwankwo Kanu for the Nigeria gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics, 1996.

So for Tanzania recently , the striker and winner of 2015 African League player of the year, Mbwana Samatta, who scored 60 goals for Congo DRC’s TP Mazembe (2011-2016) and now plays for Belgium’s top team, KRC Genk. Or Mrisho Ngassa, the most capped Tanzanian player, currently with South Africa’s Free State Stars. In 2009, Ngassa was invited for a trial at England’s West Ham, but was not hired.

Two other players who have been contracted in Europe are Haruna Moshi (briefly at Gefle IF, Sweden, 2010) and Renatus Njohole (Yverdon Sport, Switzerland, 1999-2001). In the 1970s, legendary players Sunday Manara and his brother Kassim were both hired overseas.

Big players can make a difference. But how come the “talented triumvirate” of Ngassa, Samatta(Genk) and Thomas Ulimwengu (who plays for TP Mazembe), do not make a difference?

What is the difference between the golden 1960s and 1970s and now?
Simba FC and Young Africans FC, the two top Tanzanian clubs, were organised, with youth academies, disciplined and patriotic leadership, today things are a big mess. This might be partly to blame.

In most countries, national players come out of the top clubs. If you look at the way England beat world cup champions Germany in the March 2016 friendly (3-2), you will notice most of the English players were the new talent from the two emerging English league leaders: Leicester FC and Tottenham.

During the March friendly, it was players from both teams that cause havoc and secured a sensational win.
The last time Tanzania seemed to wake up was during the era of Brazilian coach Marcio Maximo (2006-2010). Matches were won and signs of change seemed to show. But, the coach was sacked, a new one from Holland brought.

Again, he was sacked in 2015 and a national one, nicknamed “master” has been in charge. Hopes for Charles Mkwasa bringing the light to Tanzania’s national team continue. Lately, Tanzania was trounced 7-0 by Algeria, and ended with Mkwasa being charged with claims of racism in Algiers. Blame game or not, Tanzania is still trying and something ought to happen soon.


Written by Israel Saria

For the last 20 years I have been working as a football pundit. This experience has provided me with a very useful insight into football and the opportunity to carry out extensive research into the game including its players, the stadiums, the rules and tactics and I have also been grateful to meet a wide range of people connected to football in the UK, Tanzania, Germany .....

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