Soccer fans in Tanzania could still be wondering why and how Mainland’s Kilimanjaro Stars recently failed to defend the Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) Tusker Challenge Cup title when, for the second year running, the tournament was staged in Dar es Salaam.
What made matters even worse for the team was that the tournament was held when we were celebrating the 50th anniversary of Tanganyika’s independence.
The team’s shoddy performance forced fans to make their anger known through intermittent jeers, unpatriotic as that was. But that’s history, and fans must forget what happened then and start looking ahead to future championships.
They need to help – in whatever way they can – in preparations by Twiga Stars, our national women’s national soccer team and representatives in the upcoming African Women Championship (AWC) in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Twiga Stars will start the year with an away encounter against Namibia in the preliminary round of the championship on January 15. The second leg match will be played at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam on January 29.
This will be the second time for Twiga Stars to compete in the championship, having performed well enough in their debut appearance to qualify for the finals held in South Africa last year.
The finals were also a qualification tournament for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with the two finalists qualifying for the finals in Germany.
On their way to the finals, Twiga Stars beat Ethiopia 4-2 on aggregate in the preliminary round and later hammered Eritrea 11-4 on aggregate in the first round.
Twiga Stars could not make it through from their group, which also had Mali, Nigeria and hosts South Africa, but they surely made Tanzanians proud for being among the eight finalists out of 23 countries that competed in the championship.
Twiga Stars’ record in international matches is good, but they need to quality preparations before meeting Namibia. Luckily, head coach Charles Boniface Mkwasa concurs.
The last thing fans would like to see is anything similar to the debacle they witnessed during the just-ended CECAFA Cup, when Kilimanjaro Stars were clearly short on stamina, discipline and skills.
Not much is known about the Namibian side, but since their men’s team is in the 121st position in the latest FIFA rankings compared to Taifa Stars who are placed 137th, Twiga Stars must expect a very real challenge from their opponents.
So there is every need for all players to train harder and better, at least to avoid the problem of lacking stamina.
The technical bench must also ensure that there is enough discipline in the squad on and off the pitch, and this on a sustainable basis. Any player not up to the mark should be removed from the team as quickly as possible.
Discipline leads to unity among players, team officials and the technical bench generally, which makes the management of the team simple and enjoyable.
We therefore urge Twiga Stars to show maximum seriousness and commitment in their preparations for Harare and beyond.