Azam academy graduates struggle to realise dreams

28Jun 2016
Michael Mwebe
The Guardian
Azam academy graduates struggle to realise dreams

AZAM FC will have to endure tolerance and then focus on how best to make use of its inventory of youngsters at its football academy.

Joseph Kimwaga

The ice-cream makers are taking the lead among the Mainland premiership fleet in terms of trying to build up an own-bred players to cater for their senior line-up.
However, the paradox lies on the fact that its management has a strong quest to excel at the premiership before the youngsters have substantially peaked.

Pressure from the management has always been keeping coaches to become pessimistic over the use of inexperienced players in competitive premiership matches.

Despite the array of talent that has passed through Azam’s academy system, the last two seasons have passed without an academy graduate joining the competitive senior side.

In reverse, we have seen quite a big number of Azam’s academy graduates being loaned. This has resulted in a stuttering development for the stockpile of talent at the ambitious Chamazi-based club.

The disconnection between Azam’s youngsters and senior team seems to be growing as the club now seeks to improve its squad from outside sources, rather than looking from within its once highly-touted academy project.

One may rightfully assume that a player making the jump from academy football to senior squad may deserve a learning curve. However, it is hard for Azam to gamble on youngsters when they are chasing a league title against the likes of formidable sides of Yanga and Simba.

The pressure is so high on the coach by the press and the fans. It is very risky to the bet to field youngsters in your senior team in a league where it is always the coach’s fault when results are not satisfactory.

We have to live up to the fact that Azam have realised they are not a development club and in modern football all that matter are titles.

The former coach, Stewart Hall was brought to win back the title that Azam had lost to Yanga the previous season, how was he expected to gamble on unproven youngsters?

It was the same case for his predecessor, Joseph Omog. They all had to field a strong first team squad because they needed to win titles to avoid losing their jobs!

They both knew they had to win something in the first year or the second season. They did not have 4-5 years to groom academy graduates.

With the exception of Himid Mao, Aishi Manula and Farid Mussa, the rest of the Azam academy graduates have seen their playing time significantly reduced contrary to expectation.

To curb the growing problem of lack of playing time for its academy graduates, Azam has opted to loan out most of the promising prospects.

The loan system is something that is yet to be appreciated in Tanzania. It is still viewed sceptically with players seeing it as a polite way of being shown the exit door at big clubs.

Many loaned players have rarely shone to the extent of being recalled by the parent club. In Azam’s Joseph Kimwaga, Kelvin Friday, Wayne Omary are some of the main victims of this loan system.

Kimwaga who announced his arrival with a stunning injury time winner against Yanga two years ago, has struggled at Simba where he was loaned. He registered a single strike before seeing his playing time becoming extinct. In the end he opted to walk out of the club before the end of the league. His future looks very bleak.

Friday who had a good breakthrough two seasons ago including earning call up at the national team, struggled to make an impact at Mtibwa Sugar where he was loaned at the end of last year.

Wayne Omary, the former junior national team captain was loaned out to Majimaji in the first half of last season before being sent out to Coastal Union. He did not catch any attention and Coastal Union struggled and eventual relegation did not provide the right learning environment for a young players.

Mudathir Yahya and Michael Mbaga were not loaned out, but they still saw limited game time. Mbaga in particular only saw few playing minutes toward the end of the season.

It is not like things are likely to change next year as Azam will be more desperate to wrestle the title away from defending champions, Yanga. The future looks very bleak for once promising Azam’s academy graduates.