Is it the beginning of the end for Ngorongoro Heroes, Serengeti Boys?

25Nov 2018
Michael Eneza
Dar es Salaam
Guardian On Sunday
Is it the beginning of the end for Ngorongoro Heroes, Serengeti Boys?

WITH all ears and eyes focused on chances of Taifa Stars emerging second in the group and making it to the Africa Cup of Nations finals, if it gets a good result against hard hitting Uganda in the final qualifying match, not much is being discussed on the state of the youth national sides, .......

Serengeti Boys and also Ngorongoro Heroes.

What is evident is that there is a slide backwards from a promising situation earlier, there is a neat slide in their performance trend, and this isn’t an issue in so far as media content is by and large concerned, as one sees little or nothing on the issue. Are we back to national team singularity, now?

The youth teams were thought up as a way to build talent for the national side, as well as opening up another channel of presence of the country’s soccer at regional level, as youth competitions started being organized by the continental federation, CAF.

This quest went in tandem with building up the women’s national side which has at times flickered at the regional level, just as the youth sides, but in all these spheres the tendency has generally been downward in recent years. It is an experience that appears to have been eclipsed in its urgency, leaving people satisfied that they tried, but in no mood to work on it.

It is hard to see how this mood is going to be corrected for there is no level of initiative which is practicable at the moment, either from the soccer federation or from stakeholders.

Some crucial investments and recruitment of personnel to foster the growth of those teams ended unceremoniously for Serengeti Boys and Ngorongoro Heroes, the latter being a ladder to reach the former – and little has taken place since.

In the case of Twiga Stars, the women national side a similar situation is apparent, but in the latter case there was no professional foreign coach engaged, only a brilliant former Taifa Stars player.

Again it is a bit hard to penetrate the mood at TFF, the local federation on what is happening with these teams or what can be done, if at least one takes note of the fact that FIFA suspended its programs after it was seen that accounting for money delivered was inadequate.

There is every reason to believe that the capacity for the federation to cater for the youth and women’s sides to an extent was tied up with aid from FIFA, as it gave leverage for the federation to think of programs, etc. In the case of the national senior soccer side the focal point has usually been the State House, as FIFA finance is developmental, chiefly.

Having no workable FIFA programs has reduced ambitions of the federation for the youth teams in that context, with some academic experts in soccer or having coached local second and third tier clubs being assigned the role of national team coach for under—23 and under-20, etc.

The result is a lack of the sort of expertise that enabled these teams to shine at the regional level, from the time that Danish experts with little or no relation between them except for their kindred names were leaving. One assigned coach with a youth side failed to manage Taifa Stars in a tournament, and then crash-landed on the youth side, sooner.

At the same time there is an aura of experimentation with a ‘philosophy’ of the game that an expert says it will work if applied consistently, where the proof is that he thinks so, not that there is track record for that assertion.

It is in the legion of what former president Ali Hassan Mwinyi during his time said our national team was a ‘madman’s head’ where every start-up in the art of being a barber is likely to start honing his skills. Providing the youth national team or both squads to one or other failed philosophies of soccer isn’t a service to the teams or the country as such, and only leads to dissipation of energy, lack of interest, etc.

Thus, short of a miracle, there is scarcely any visible way that the interest of the public is going to be directed at the two national youth sides as well as the women’s team, in which case work in that direction that has taken the better part of a decade - for the women’s team a bit longer – is largely being put to the backburner.

One reason is that there have never really been proper stakeholders in this sphere, since few independent sports sponsors or team owners exist, and national team sides aren’t part of such transactions anyway.

With the sports federation, there has to be a situation of plenty for something to be done, since stakeholders tend to look for surpluses if possible to make own ends meet, as was palpably demonstrated in the differences with FIFA. With all these organizational weaknesses, youth soccer shall have to wait.