Stars in crunch qualifying battle             

23Mar 2019
Joseph Mchekadona
The Guardian
Stars in crunch qualifying battle             

TAIFA Stars will tomorrow host Uganda’s Cranes at the National Stadium in Dares Salaam in a decisive Group L match of the AFCON Qualifiers.

Taifa Stars’ players attend training in Dar es Salaam yesterday to prepare for the Group L match of the AFCON Qualifiers against Uganda, which will be played in the city tomorrow. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TFF

The clash will define the destiny of Tanzania’s qualification for this year’s AFCON finals slated for Egypt from June 21 to July 19.

All preparations for the must win encounter are ready as Taifa Stars’ head coach Emmanuel Amunike and his backroom members have said all is set for the game and are in mood to fight to the last drop of their blood for the sake of the country’s pride.

Morale boosting committees formed by the government and Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) as well as fans are all also prepared to cheer the team at the stadium where Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa is expected to be the guest of honour in the match, which is expected to write history for the country’s football.

The last time Taifa Stars qualified for AFCON finals was more than 30 years ago.

Tomorrow encounter will not be easy for Taifa Stars as the visitors have already sealed their qualification for the finals but their head coach Sebastian Desabre recently informed the media that his aim is to see his side finish the qualifying stage without tasting a defeat.

Taifa Stars, who will play the Sunday duel with a motivation hashtag of ‘Ni zamu yetu sasa’ (it's our time now), should though draw courage and inspiration from such small African football nations like Madagascar and Mauritania that already qualified.

Amunike said his charges are ready for the encounter and he is confident of taking Taifa Stars to AFCON finals this year.

He said Taifa Stars have a big chance of stunning the Cranes as most of the visiting teams struggle at the National Stadium.

"In our first match away in Uganda we drew with them, this time around I am very sure that we will beat them and qualify for the AFCON finals in Egypt," he said.

Knowing well the power of supporters, Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Harrison Mwakyembe, Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner, Paul Makonda, sports and arts personalities and many others have all asked Tanzanians to flock the stadium to create an intimidating atmosphere for the visitors while cheering Taifa Stars.

The Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner said people should come and support the squad at the stadium, saying success of Taifa Stars is for the whole nation regardless of a local club one supports.

Makonda, who also heads a committee known as 'Saidia Taifa Stars Ishinde', said he will buy 1000 tickets for less privileged children from orphanage centers in the city to watch the game live.

He also promised that should Taifa Stars beat Uganda and qualify for the finals, the city will become an arena for celebration.

He said some roads in the city will be closed to give room for celebrations and beverages will be sold at half price among others.

"Ni zamu yetu sasa (it's our time now), we are all ready for this must win game on Sunday (tomorrow). If we win and qualify, the city of Dar es salaam will be in full celebration mood, some roads will be closed so people can enjoy," he said.

Another prominent football lover, Joseph Kusaga of Clouds Media Group, also promised to buy 100 tickets for fans to watch the game.

However, Taifa Stars must better the results of Lesotho, popularly known as Likuena, as all three teams in Group L have a chance of qualifying for the finals.

Both Lesotho and Taifa Stars have seven points while Cape Verde have four points.

Taifa Stars have been placed third in Group L due to an inferior head-to-head record with Lesotho.

Cape Verde, who are languishing at the bottom of the group with four points, must defeat Lesotho at home and pray Taifa Stars hold Uganda, if they are to make it to the AFCON finals.

If both games end in draw, Cranes and Likuena will advance to the finals.

Starting from this year’s edition of AFCON finals, teams will be increased to 24, as opposed to 16 teams in the previous editions.

Fourteen teams, including the hosts Egypt, have already sealed their spot for this year’s finals while 10 places are up for grabs in what promises to be intense final round.