Application of ‘blue economy’ may uplift soccer in Zanzibar 

15Jan 2022
By Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Application of ‘blue economy’ may uplift soccer in Zanzibar 

​​​​​​​ZANZIBAR-based clubs and their fans were watching as a sort of re-run of the Azam Sports Federation Cup late stages was being played out at Amaan Stadium, as four teams from the Mainland Premier League reached the semi-finals of the 2022 Mapinduzi Cup tournament,-

Azam FC striker, Yahya Zaydi (R), attempts to get the better of Zanzibar's Meli 4 City FC player as the outfits faced off in the 2022 Mapinduzi Cup tournament match that took place in Zanzibar on January 4. PHOTO: COURTESY OF AZAM FC

-with all Zanzibar clubs exiting at the group stage.

That is not exactly the spirit of the tournament, as it is expected to showcase the capacity of Zanzibar clubs.

It is what they can do in a limited arena of competition, either with Mainland clubs or selected regional outfits.

Failing to scale the group stage for all Isles clubs was an evident drawback on their part, which illustrates that they are down one step of the ladder from Mainland sides, and even without including other regional club tournament champions or credible contenders for any of the championships.

This situation has not always been so, though it can be said to generally reflect the soccer imbalance between the Mainland and Zanzibar, which is true in other league systems. Talent follows money, so Zanzibar has depressed teams.

It can easily be asserted that what counts in club football is the ability to invest in the play systems – good training environment, good players, and capable technical benches – not wayfarers and journeymen, living on day-to-day allowances, hired to play or to handle teams.

Or training in makeshift premises where it isn’t even predicted how a ball is passed and is expected to go, or if a player can make a quick turn – as tiny potholes in poorly maintained grounds singularly limit the extent of player flexibility, thus of training scope.

Saddled with such constant factors – ownership of stadiums, sponsorship - the rest is predictable.

In other words, Zanzibar faces a structural development problem in its soccer improvement prospects which isn’t dissimilar to the Mainland, but a few of its other ‘constant factors’ are worse, regarding the capacity of public institutions and individual investors to run Premier League sides.

An illustration is a manner in which a prominent Zanzibari who runs Azam Group of Companies (and there are others) sent a team to the place that is listed on the Mainland Premier League.

It is plausible that many Zanzibaris would have been wishing to see Azam FC take the cup as the nearest of kin this side of the Union, surely.

Left at that point it is valid to say that many in the Zanzibar soccer fraternity won’t be fighting tooth and nail to bring about changes that reduce the dominance of Mainland clubs in the tournament and wider events, regional or continental.

The reason for that hypothesis is that they have a representative who often does well in those contests, namely Azam FC, but surely this is like borrowing an impeccable suit to attend a wedding, that such a person really won’t feel comfortable. Lies can be taken that far, not farther.

In that case, the problem of enhancing Isles soccer capacities so that they compare with the Mainland remains valid, not for the talent but for retention ability, and to that extent, recruiting professionals from within the country or in the neighbourhood as it was the case with clubs participating in the tournament.

A team built on the presence of some professionals has an edge in what the coach can train, or direct players to do, as they already have the required ability.

It becomes an issue of the coach’s own ability to think out the best methods, facing no hindrance as to applying them, with excellent ball control.

This ability is slowly creeping into more Mainland Premier League club sides but it is likely to be much slower in Zanzibar unless there is a strong presence of the foreign private sector being welcomed into Zanzibar, to a settled role in the economy.

While there are plenty of good ideas coming up and starting to be applied, it is likely that the Zanzibar Diaspora, which can lift economic and sporting prospects, shall require a safe environment, not one depending on policy moods.

That may bring up the need for ‘rationalization’ of land ownership, enable individuals to trade plots for cash, build a new class.

When that is in place, strong commercial and marine agricultural groups of various sorts, not to speak of more resilient tourism sector players would be at hand to collect players from all over the place, create excellent training grounds and pay good coaches to give the best training.

Such a need in the sports sphere doesn’t create grounds for the actual change of direction but it can contribute to the sort of yearnings that when put together, point a finger at the need for change.

It is a long shot but it is plausible, as the alternative is that Zanzibar soccer fans be satisfied with Azam FC achievements, simply.

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