Tanzania’s AFCON dream is more than just kicking a ball

25Jan 2024
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Tanzania’s AFCON dream is more than just kicking a ball

WHEN Taifa Stars stepped onto the pitch in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast a fortnight ago, it was not just about football.

WHEN Taifa Stars stepped onto the pitch in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast a fortnight ago, it was not just about football.

It was about Tanzania, a nation on the rise, showing the world what it is made up of. Every cheer, every tackle, every drop of sweat told a story of hard work, of dreams bigger than any goalpost.

For years, young boys across Tanzania have chased makeshift balls, their eyes filled with visions of wearing the national team colours.

The 2023 AFCON showdown has not been just a victory for those boys, it was a sign that those dreams are within reach. It proved that Tanzania belongs to the big stage, playing alongside the continent’s best.

Reaching AFCON is though just the beginning. To truly achieve success, Tanzania needs to keep the ball rolling. It needs to nurture the talent that exists in every village and city street.

This is where the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) and the government come in. They need to come up with better programs, invest in infrastructure, and create a system that supports players from their first kick to their final roar.

Tanzania's soccer followers should think about it, in 2027, the AFCON finals will be coming home! Not just to the country, but to East Africa.

The East African region will be co-hosting the continental showpiece- with three nations of Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda united by a love for the beautiful game.

This is not just a tournament, it is a chance for the trio to show the world what East Africa can do.

To shine on such a stage, the country needs to get ready now. Soccer enthusiasts ought to imagine the roar of the crowd in Dar es Salaam, the cheers echoing across various regions as Taifa Stars lifts the AFCON trophy in 2027.

It is the dream, and participation in the 2023 AFCON showdown is the first step towards making it a reality.

For the country to reach the dream it needs plans, long-term plans, and even short-term plans. I will present an example of nations that achieved success in various continental tournaments. 

Zambia’s 2012 AFCON victory context came along as the nation had never won the continental showpiece's trophy.

French tactician Herve Renard, the then Zambia head coach, came with a short-term plan as he instilled a never-say-die attitude, emphasizing mental resilience and team spirit.

He also adapted tactics to suit the available players, employing a counter-attacking style that maximized their strengths.

As a result, Zambia defied all the odds, winning the 2012 AFCON title in a dramatic penalty shootout of the final against Ivory Coast.

The victory transcended football, serving as a powerful symbol of national unity and perseverance.

Ghana’s 2010 World Cup quarterfinal feat- the country had, before that, never reached the World Cup knockout stages. 

Ratomir Dujkovic, then Ghana’s head coach, instilled discipline and tactical awareness, blending experienced players with exciting youngsters. He also fostered a strong team spirit and belief in their ability to surprise.

The West African country’s squad reached the World Cup quarterfinals, narrowly losing to Uruguay in a nerve-wracking duel.

Ghana's run showcased its potential and laid the foundation for future successes. Now all these examples can relate to Tanzania's situation and this means anything is possible- it is just a matter of better plans and strategies.

Germany’s 2014 World Cup victory tastes bittersweet. Reaching third place in the 2006 World Cup was good, but not good enough. 

The German Football Federation (DFB) knew it needed a long-term plan, a chase game against time culminating in the 2014 tournament.

The DFB focused on three key areas- talent, tactics, and toughness. Elite youth academies blossomed, scientific training methods were deployed, and players became tactically flexible.

Sports psychologists instilled resilience while coaching staff embraced possession-based play inspired by Spanish and Barcelona models.

Grassroots programs were strengthened, scouting networks widened, and infrastructure upgraded. The DFB partnered with universities to stay ahead in sports science.

The result? A generation of technical geniuses like Mario Götze, Toni Kroos, and Marco Reus emerged, ready to be molded by head coach Joachim Löw’s attacking vision.

The 2014 World Cup hosted by Brazil arrived, and Germany marched through the tournament. Past demons were slain, culminating in a dramatic final against Argentina. In the dying moments, Götze volleyed home the winner, silencing the doubters.

This was not just a victory, it was the payoff for eight years of meticulous planning, unwavering dedication, and a shared dream.

Germany’s tale was not written in 2014, it was crafted, player by player, dream by dream, eight years before.

Here is the thing, the 2023 AFCON is not just a game- it is a promise. A promise to Tanzanians, to future generations, that Tanzania belongs amongst the footballing giants. 

Tanzania has the talent, the passion, and now, the opportunity. The country ought to make 2027 not just a celebration of co-hosting the AFCON but a coronation of dreams fulfilled.

Soccer enthusiasts in Tanzania, for that matter, ought to rally behind Taifa Stars, they should invest in the country’s future, and show the world that when it comes to football, Tanzania is here to stay, and is here to play.