TAIFA Stars are virtually out of the run for the COSAFA (the Council of Southern African Football Associations) tournament after going down 0-1 and 0-2 to Swaziland and Madagascar respectively.
Taifa Stars who were invited by the tournament organisers after an 18-year hiatus in the tournament, clutched at the invitation with both hands and glee, hoping to kill two birds with one stone— using the tournament for finetuning the team and exposing young, talented players in the side onto the continental soccer arena.
Let’s not forget that in South Africa where COSAFA tournament is being held is also home to the continent’s finest stadia, thanks to the organisation of the first Fifa World Cup in Africa in 2010 which saw Spain winning their first ever Fifa World Cup after beating one of the best European national soccer teams which has won everything in soccer except the Fifa World Cup, the Netherlands.
Playing in such fantastic South African stadia, which are somewhat different from our own National Stadium at Chang’ombe in Dar es Salaam, help the players, especially new ones, in getting used to different, top-flight stadia in the world.
The second learning curve is of course playing in a completely different environment, before a horde of trumpetsblowing fans, a spectacle that is only confined in South African stadia in the world.
On Thursday this week, I was in the city, after a week in one of the southern highlands regions, and I must admit, I was shocked to hear what most of our soccer fans were saying about Taifa Stars’ performance in South Africa, and in particular, the team’s head coach, Mart Nooij.
Simply put, to most of them, Dutch has failed to deliver and that it was time the man was shown the door! As I have times without number said in these columns, I don’t believe in the improvement of soccer through sacking of coaches, be they national or clubs coaches.
Yes, for much as soccer coaches need to prove their worthy, it’s my humble submission that Taifa Stars’ continuous failures have more to do with the TFF and our topflight clubs rather than the Taifa Stars’ head coach.
But this is not to say that Mart Nooij is blameless, far from it. There are areas he could be held directly responsible for the debacle, and I will explain that later.
You cannot blame Mart Nooij for the team’s failure to perform if you don’t provide him with his most important requirement, top-flight trial matches. In the case of Mart Nooij, he has always asked for trial matches from his employers, the TFF, but the latter has failed.
The provision of constant trial matches helps the coach in gauging the performance of his players. Through such matches, the coach is able to find out whether or not his players are picking up his techniques and tactics.
It’s extremely difficult for a coach, no matter how highly qualified one is, to gauge the performance of his team if he is not provided with numerous top-flight friendly matches.
Since Mart Nooij arrived in the country as Taifa Stars’ head coach, the maximum number of friendly matches he has been provided by the TFF before the start of any international tournament has been two! Now you cannot expect players to learn important techniques and tactics through one or two friendly matches.
Unfortunately, that is what Taifa Stars have been treated to, year in, year out. Whenever the TFF was provided with money by sponsors that included, in the past, Tanzania Breweries and the NMB bank, I have always called on the TFF to use the money in exposing Taifa Stars constant friendly matches against top-flight African national soccer teams.
But such calls have always ended up in deaf ears and the end result has been what we have constantly bore witness to, defeats in local and international soccer tournaments.
The second problem has been TFF’s failure to bind topflight clubs, especially in the Vodacom Premier League, to establish and run soccer academies that would provide constant supply of young, talented players in their teams.
To date, the only club that has at least tried to make a modicum of such a programme is Simba Sports Club which has been getting into its senior team young players it has itself prepared.
The only area I can perhaps blame Mart Nooij is his failure to get into the team young, talented players. If you look at his present team, most of the players still come from the top three clubs, Simba, Young Africans and Azam FC, players who have failed to perform in their won clubs.
We need in the Taifa Stars players who are hungry for success and they are plenty in the country if only Mart Nooij can spend time watching Coca Cola youth tournament.
The beauty of making use of talented, youthful hungry for success players is that they can lose from the likes of Swaziland, Madagascar and others five or ten times, but after that things will change. It would later be extremely difficult to beat them. Take an example of just one player, much as he plays for a big team I’m against, Simon Msuva.
The player is not only very disciplined, but he is also a very hard worker and hungry for success. After playing for less than four seasons, a South African team has shown interest in the boy.
Msuva has become what he is because his club gave him the chance of playing as many matches as possible and the club’s technical bench would not have done that if Msuva had not shown commitment in each and every match.
Mart Nooij needs to get Msuvas who are plenty out there instead of giving us noncommittal players from the so called top-flight clubs.
He needs to drop all old players he has been picking from the big, local clubs and I would personally not be bothered by their defeats which would be nothing but temporary.
Mart Nooij needs to know that he is not here to please the big clubs, but rather to build a strong, young talented team that can take on the best in the continent.