Tanzania is hosting the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup with soccer fans widely divided over the line-up of the Mainland team - Kilimanjaro Stars.
Club devotion bordering on fanaticism has clearly taken centre stage at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam stands whenever the team is playing.
Fans have been examining the composition of the team’s line-up with an eagle’s eyes, identifying the players with premier club affiliations particularly with those usually featuring for giants Yanga and Simba.
Deep division has been seen, with some fans booing the team merely on grounds that their favourite club players are sidelined.
But the selection of the national team selection ought to be based on merit and not on club allegiance or affiliation as what is of most importance is coming up with a winning outfit.
It was sad seeing how some players were jeered during the match between Mainland and Djibouti, when the home side badly needed victory and keep alive their title retention bid.
Head coach Charles Boniface Mkwasa’s contingent was admittedly predominantly Simba players, without a single face from their archrivals Yanga.
What those fans may have elected to forget was that the particular coach featured for Yanga and Taifa Stars for years as player but later as trainer, without ever crossing over to Simba.
Had club affiliation been the basis of the selection of the squad for the day, surely Kilimanjaro Stars would have been worlds different.
But it is on the basis of fairness and merit that coaches are supposed to choose teams, which is the route Mkwasa appears to have taken. Strangely, he reaped a crown of thorns instead of bouquets!
Home fans should bear in mind that, at the end of the day, the world rates our teams and ourselves either as victors or as losers only on the strength of match results and not with respect to the clubs players hail from.
We thus need to capitalise on our home ground advantage by throwing our full weight behind our representatives in the competition and not otherwise, with club devotion a secondary consideration.
True patriots, sports lovers in particular, will continue to rally behind coach Mkwasa and the entire technical bench as well as the players.
The coach and his assistants should act professionally and not allow irrelevant external forces or interests to distract them into inefficiency or poor judgment.
The composition of our team should not necessarily be based on “democratic practice” merely to suit the interests of particular club officials, fans or members.
Coaches must stand firm to defend their selection and distance themselves from club politics. Otherwise, we might find ourselves losing matches and titles we should actually have won, at times with little effort.
The Tanzania Football Federation should move in quickly and prevent this dangerous trend from becoming an integral part of Tanzanian soccer.
Club differences ought to be kept light years far from our national teams, making it possible for coaches to select the players they believe are the best for the nation.