Underestimating Tanzania might prove fatal

HARARE - Recently, I met up with a colleague from Tanzania who has been working here for some time and we got chatting about football, especially the big game pitting Zimbabwe and his home country in the 2015 African Nations Cup qualifiers.

The two nations clash in the first leg of the preliminary round of qualifiers at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam at the weekend.

And by jov! My colleague assured me, in fact, chillingly promised me that Timu ya soka ya Taifa ya Tanzania (as the national team is affectionately called in the Swahili language) will beat the Warriors.  And he was willing to bet on it for good measure!

Having just seen the Warriors squad selected by coach Ian Gorowa and also having witnessed a few of Tanzania's games in which they upset continental footballing giants like Algeria, whom they held nil-all away, beating Morocco 3-1 and twice beating Burkina Faso in Afcon qualifiers among other feats, I could not really dispute his “promise” and could only respond with a-not-so-convincing “we will see”.

He further went on to tell me why the Taifa Stars would beat us, and some of his assertions, combined with the little info I dug on the Tanzanian team, seem to add bite to his “promise”.

A lot of money has been poured into Tanzanian football lately, a huge chuck of it directed at the national side. Newly-appointed national team coach, Dutchman Maart Nootj, is also expected to infuse the famous Total Football philosophy invented by Rinus Michels and perfected by among others the legendary Johan Cruyff.

We have seen an amazing number of Dutch coaches borne out of, or highly influenced by this phenomenon called Total Football; such men as Louis van Gaal, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaart, Frank de Boer, Guus Hiddink among many others who have left their mark on the game.

Simply put, the Dutch are shrewd tacticians when it comes to the world's most beautiful game, a  case in point on the African scene being Clemence Westerhof and Jo Bonferere's successful stints with Nigeria, though the former didn't do as well with our own Warriors.

Noort himself did a fairly commendable job with Mozambique, who he led to a good 13-match unbeaten home record as well helping Nigeria qualify for the 2010 World Cup Africa after the Mozambicans shocked Tunisia, who were on course to grab the same berth.

Ian Gorowa has done a wonderful job with Zimbabwe in the short spell he has been at the helm and no doubt deserves a long-term contract. Zimbabweans have started believing in their team again spurred on especially by the recent success in the last Chan tournament. Notwithstanding this promising spell for the Warriors, I can't help the feeling of unease on the forthcoming clash with Tanzania.

A quick perusal of Gorowa's call up list reveals a couple of novices for this two-legged clash, namely Steven Alimenda, Sydney Linyama, Marshall Mudewe. To add to this, preparations for this tie have not been smooth, with players getting into camp with barely a week to the encounter. I would have thought one or two tried and tested players would have been important in this crucial encounter but then again reported injuries to some of Gorowa's options might have led him to pick this seemingly understrength team.

That and the slow preparations for the game somehow bring out a hint of underestimation of our opponents, which might cost us dearly in the end. In contrast, Tanzania’s team is largely made up of home-based players with no camping complications, which gives them more time to gel. On the other hand, our players coming from outside the country have had little time to gel local-based contingent.

And then by the time the Warriors land in Dar es Salaam, they won't have time to acclimatise, a crucial factor in football. Maybe we are reading too much into the Fifa rankings, which tell us we are better than the Tanzanians (They are number 122 in the world and 37 Africa, while we are 26th on the continent and 98 in the world).

These rankings count for nothing as the era of minnows or lightweights in soccer is long gone. All the same, I wish our Warriors a happy outing as I would also want to take my seat in Morocco come Afcon 2015.

*Bothwell Matambanadzo is a senior proof-reader at the Daily News and an avid football follower.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.