Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Monday, May 6, 2013

Letter from Butiama: If Taifa Stars can, we all can

This is one of numerous articles I wrote for the Sunday News (Tanzania) column "Letter from Butiama" between 2005 and 2011. Publication date: 24th December 2006. 
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I rank Daladala commuter bus drivers as some of the most news conscious members of society. If anything is on the news it will soon be written behind a Daladala.

In the past, I recall seeing “Kandahar” and “Torabora” when bombs were falling on those two Afghanistan cities. Recently, I have seen “Maximo” on one Daladala and it is a name that has been in the news often this year.

I believe that many children born this year of parents who are football fans have been named “Maximo”.

One of the most remarkable news items in Tanzanian football this year is the transformation of Taifa Stars into a team that also wins football matches, lately against the Democratic Republic of Congo’s national team during the 45th anniversary celebrations of Tanzania’s independence.

The big lesson from Taifa Star’s transformation is that the Brazilian Marcio Maximo is not fielding players from Brazil, he is using Tanzanians who have been around all along and who, as he says, just need to rediscover their inner abilities by gradually building up their confidence.

This brings out the fact that it is leadership that makes the difference. The combination of a new leadership in the Tanzania Football Federation, a new government that has promised to place greater emphasis in sports, and the arrival of a coach from Brazil arising from that promise has made a difference.

Brazil is a magic word in world football, and that juju may have worked up to build that confidence in our players. I suspect if the coach were from Vanuatu we would still be wondering why it was necessary to build the new stadium.

Today, we just have to commend the government for possessing such forward vision. Taifa Stars tops group seven in the African Cup of Nations after whooping Burkina Faso and drawing with Mozambique in Maputo. They face Senegal in March and if after that match Senegal’s Lions of Teranga will be aware of a more ferocious lion from the Serengeti masquerading as Taifa Stars, I will begin looking for tickets for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa 2010 in the firm belief that Tanzania will be playing in the first round matches.

There is still the question of whether our national team will make it to the 2008 African Nations Cup in Ghana, but even if it does not, we have some time to prepare for 2010.

What has happened in football can happen elsewhere. There is a lot that can be said about the barriers to development that developing countries face against developed countries and so there is a valid argument that however hard an individual in poor countries works to transform his life to a better level, his chances are limited by the opportunities open to his country in international trade.


However, the confidence to take on other nations cannot be built upon people who are not confident to face their part of the responsibility of transforming their lives. You can bring a Maximo and even an Arsene Wenger, but, in the end, someone has to believe that it can be done.

While we continue to seek out those who can help us from the outside, we have to begin looking inwards and build from our own resources, from our own history, and from our cultural heritage.

We cannot build confidence in the future generation of Tanzanians if the reality is that youngsters today continue to look beyond our borders for their role models. Cultural influences from outside shape the minds and aspirations of young Tanzanians today more than ever.

We can blame the proliferation of outside media – the internet especially – for having these strong influences on those who have a greater probability of becoming  Tanzanian’s future leaders, the urban-based youth. But we should also do as much as possible to ensure that our youngsters learn as much about Tanzania as they do about the rest of the world, but especially instilling a sense of pride in our country and its heritage. If the aspiring footballers plait their hair they should know that it did not originate from David Beckham, but closer to home.

We cannot and should not control the Internet, but it may be helpful to look at the media content in radio and television to help maintain a greater content of local programmes to assist this process of confidence building and moulding young Tanzanians from an early age to also look inward.

If Taifa Stars can do it, we all can.

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