ON Monday night this week, I tuned in on KTN, one of Kenya’s leading private television stations, just when they had started airing their sports programme.
The television anchor told his viewers that the Afcon qualifier match between Harambee Stars and Togo in Togo had just ended and the East African team had beaten their hosts by two goals to one.
But the victory, he told his viewers, did not help Harambee Stars as like their East African counterparts, Uganda and Tanzania, Harambee Stars had already been bundled out of the Afcon finals having performed poorly in the first two matches.
During their subsequent discussions which was steered by the anchor of the sports programme, the two sports analysts spoke animatedly about a young player from Bandari FC in Mombasa by the name of Abdallah Hassan.
They said the young and coming up player has been scoring in every Afcon qualifier match and had generally showed growing improvement since he was picked by Kenya’s veteran coach, Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee. Even in the last match played on Monday night in Togo, Abdallah Hassan scored the opening goal in the 32nd minute of the first half and Choka scored the second goal in the 65th minute.
Both commentators called on Harambee Stars’ chief coach to look for more young local talents the likes of Abdallah Hassan and provide them with more playing opportunity so that they could gain more exposure, and by extension, experience. I have started with what I had viewed from the KTN television sports programme because there are a lot of things to learn from what the television anchor and his two sports analysts had said in that sports programme.
For whoever had tuned in to the sports programme in question, they would be surprised to note that the way they commented on Kenya’s soccer problems, you would think they were reading from what I have been writing in my sports columns titled FROM TOUCHLINE and THE SPORTSCENE!
Simply put, both Kenya and Tanzania seem to be facing similar problems, when it comes to soccer, which have in turn repeatedly led our two respective national soccer teams, Harambee Stars and Taifa Stars to produce the kind of lacklustre performance.
For instance, the two commentators said had the same Kenyan soccer team been provided with adequate trial matches, they could have performed not only better, but they could have also qualified for the Afcon finals and they have a point.
In the home match played in Nairobi against Togo, Harambee Stars were held to one all! But in the return match away from Kenya in Togo, Harambee Stars beat their hosts by two goals to one. The same lacklustre performance came to pass when Harambee Stars played against a team from the tiny islands of Comoro in the Indian Ocean.
In Nairobi, they played a one all draw. But in Comoro, Kenya were beaten by two goals to one. Interestingly, Kenya had at the start of the Afcon qualifiers held to one all draw multiple Afcon winners, Egypt and in their own backyard. The same story more or less happened in Tanzania. Taifa Stars lost by one goal to nil to a team they had beaten in Dar by two goals to one.
For a team that had held by one all draw Tunisia which is one of the soccer giants in Africa, surely, Taifa Stars just like Harambee Stars should not have lost to teams like Equatorial Guinea and Comoro after drawing against Egypt. Now if you look critically at both Harambee Stars and Taifa Stars, you would learn one important thing.
Both teams are very good, but if they are better prepared. But as we have already noted, both were not well prepared for the Afcon qualifiers. Both teams lacked adequate trial matches which could have helped their coaches to prepare better their players. For Tanzania, it was worse.
As I had occasion to note in my last piece carried last Saturday, Taifa Stars were already beaten by Equatorial Guinea even before they took off from the Julius Kambarage Nyerere International Airport. We don’t know how extensive and intensive Equatorial Guinea, which has already qualified for the Afcon finals, had been prepared for the Afcon qualifiers.
But they would not have qualified for the Afcon finals if they had not been well prepared. But at least we know how badly prepared Taifa Stars were for this tournament. By the time they were flying out for Malabo, in Equatorial Guinea, they had only played one trial match against Harambee Stars!
Now you cannot win against an opponent and away from home having played only one trial match. Equatorial Guinea scored their winning goal in the 89th minute of the match because Taifa Stars were not only tired, but had also lacked concentration. Tiredness and lack of concentration are products of a team that has not had intensive and extensive training and lack adequate trial matches.
You don’t require rocket science to know that. What should the sports fraternity in Tanzania do to get Taifa Stars to winning ways? They need to get rid of the leaders who can properly plan for the team to win.