UEFA Champions League commands a huge following in Tanzania, chiefly owing to its entertainment value and the quality of the teams involved.
This comes as no surprise as massive numbers of Tanzanians adore and enjoy soccer and faithfully keep track of all manner of national, regional, continental and international tournaments – even friendly encounters – right from kick-off.
The entertainment part of the game is definitely of crucial importance to spectators, radio listeners, television viewers, players, fans, officials and indeed even the larger public.
However, it would pay a lot more if people also used the chance of following developments in world soccer to learn a lesson or two on how to improve our own game.
Our soccer players, trainers, referees and other officials at all levels, including or particularly those featuring in the premiership, should see the need to take the trouble to learn from superstars – for now the likes of Didier Drogba, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – as well as outstanding coaches, referees, etc.
Their deficiencies notwithstanding, UEFA and other world-class soccer leagues have a lot to offer in terms of preparations, team formations, playing patterns, behaviour on and off the pitch and generally observing the rules governing the game.
While it is only fair for fans to expect an enjoyable game, using the opportunity to tap the positive aspects of the league with a view of polishing our own soccer ought to be encouraged.
Quality officiating leading to a minimal number of complaints during and after matches is surely something to aim for with one’s head up.
It is therefore important for Tanzanian soccer referees to watch UEFA league and other world-class matches mainly so as see how to enhance their own competence.
As noted, spectators too have important lessons to learn, including disabusing themselves of mistaken beliefs. Some of these are that playing at home is necessarily an advantage, that presumed stars will sparkle even if they are off-form and that particular teams must win at all costs.
There are sharp contrasts between our Mainland premier league and what we have been observing from UEFA Champions League matches.
Arguably our worst ever premiership season is drawing to a close, and many will remember it as having been characterised by a host of complaints from players, referees, officials, fans and even people with the least interest in soccer – or sports.
In truth, the UEFA Champions League merits serving as our benchmark if we are really serious about improving our soccer in terms of playing tactics, officiating, technical bench behaviour, spectator and player discipline, etc. It will take us time to equal Europe, but we can make it.
While the Tanzania Football Federation and the Football Referees Association of Tanzania have a direct role to play in this, they should not be the only ones to take action.
More of our media, particularly TV and radio stations, should be allowed room to lend a hand. Surely, relying on broadcasts by only a few of these won’t do.
Broadcasts of UEFA and UEFA-type matches will continue coming our way; how we plan to gain from them is what matters most.