Coach Ernest Gbaar under-rates Cameroon’s under 20 selection, despite 4-0 defeat. In their opening match of CAN 2003 under twenty eliminatories in Yaounde last Sunday, the Ngorongoro Heroes of Tanzania suffered a heavy defeat. Yet, their head coach, Ernest Gbaar Mukake remains upbeat that they will beat Cameroon in a fortnight in Arusha to qualify for the next round of the competition. However, their football history leaves little room for such an eventual upset.
The Tanzania Football Association (TFA) created in 1934 has left little impact on the continental African soccer with their incognito national squad, Taifa Stars. In sharp contrast with the great expectations inherent in the name of a team whose vision is to have the sky as their limit, Taifa Stars reached the fantastic pinnacle of continental fame in African Nations’ Cup competition in 1980, the year Nigeria first hosted the tournament and lifted the coveted trophy for the first time. In this lone seemingly heroic outing of the Tanzanians, they crashed out at take-off; falling 3-1 to Nigeria in Group A opening match in Lagos on 8 march, 1980. They later bowed 2-1 to Egypt before packing home on a 1-1 tie with Cote d’ Ivoire.
For more than twenty years, Tanzanian football stagnates and at the dawn of the third millennium, changing tides are setting in since the restructuring of the premiership in 1998. For the moment, the premiership comprises 24 teams divided into four pools of six teams each with matches played on the away and return legs principle. The first two teams from each pool are selected to play what is styled « Super Eight Competition » with top four chosen for the final of the TFA cup. The runners-up or losers in the TFA cup represent the country in the African league championship and the winners do same in the cup winners’ cup competition. The second division is structured in the same manner like the premiership. In the past, secondary school boys were selected to represent the country in international football competitions. The new touch given Tanzanian football since 1998, is yielding dividends with the nation being heard once again in African soccer. The qualification of the under twenty Tanzanian team or « Ngorongoro Heroes » as they are known at home for the eliminatory phase of CAN 2003 billed for Burkina Faso is a blue print of the reformatory achievement.
When the Heroes fell 1-0 to Burundi in Bujumbura very few people expected them to turn the table. In Arusha for the return leg, the Heroes became true to themselves and dismissed the Burundians from the race for Burkina Faso on 3-1 with a 1-0 aggregate. Heroes’ trainer, Ernest Gbaar Mukake rated the Junior Lions as « technically inaccurate, » and lifted his right hand in a solemn vow to win even if they will not close the goal margin as they look forward to Arusha return leg. The trainer explained that, due to the lack of enough football facility in the new capital city of Dodoma with less than a million inhabitants, the match will be played in Arusha where the stadium is ultra-modern and this former capital harbours over 10 million inhabitants. For now, professional football is absent in Tanzania with barely two Rwandans in the premiership, and no Tanzanian elsewhere. It is difficult to ascertain whether they will match words with action as the Arusha derby is highly awaited in two weeks.