Taifa Stars’ coach calls for active U-23 national team  

17Oct 2020
Michael Mwebe
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Taifa Stars’ coach calls for active U-23 national team  

​​​​​​​ETIENNE Ndayiragije, head coach for Tanzania's senior national football team, Taifa Stars, believes the lack of a proper transition plan for the national youth sides has affected the development of players into the senior team.

National U-23 football team 'Kilimanjaro Warriors' players attend training session in Dar es Salaam to prepare for Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) U-23 qualifiers against Burundi, which took place at Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in the city in 2018.

Tanzania are ranked 134th in the FIFA World Rankings. The squad's average position since the creation of the rankings in 1992 is 125th.

The Taifa Stars have only played at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals on two occasions, with their last appearance in 2019 coming after 39 years.

At youth level, Tanzania has struggled to qualify for the continental youth competitions at the U-20 and U-23 categories.

In 2018, the national U-23 side, then consisting of many top flight players, was eliminated by Burundi in the first round of the AFCON U-23 qualifiers.

In the same year, Tanzania's national U-20 squad, led by coach Ammy Ninje, was eliminated by Mali 6-2 on aggregate in the second round of qualifiers for the 2019 AFCON U-20 hosted by Niger in February.

Since then neither the U-20 squad nor U-23 side has played any competitive match.

Ndayiragije has advised the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) to make an active development side with the U-23 team which would help players transition to the senior team with more international exposure from playing friendlies.

“Our problem here is the transition. We need to have an active U-23 side that will help these young players before they transition to the senior team,” Ndayiragijje explained in response to the Taifa Stars' talent pool.

Ndayiragije has promoted a few players to the senior team ahead of the 2022 AFCON qualifiers.

In his most recent squad which lost to Burundi in an international friendly played in Dar es Salaam last week, he included Nickson Kibabage, Ally Msengi, Israel Patrick and Dickson Job who were part of the national U-17 squad 'Serengeti Boys' that qualified for the 2017 AFCON U-17 finals played in Gabon.

Former KMC FC midfielder Msengi debuted from the bench to join the group of very few players to have represented Tanzania at U-17, U-18, U-20, U-23 and senior levels.

He has also gone on to play overseas at club football. He plays for South Africa's Premier Soccer League side, Stellenbosch.

Taifa Stars will hope to bounce back to winning ways when they take on Tunisia in the AFCON qualifiers' double header games next month.

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