Thursday, March 18, 2010

TZ Soccer Players: Victims of Culture?

It is been a while since I experienced temperatures in the 60s (that is in Fahrenheit, my Bongoland friends). As such, if I get giddy in here, don’t blame me. It is the Spring fever catching on!

I have to admit, I hardly go through a lot. It is not that I don’t like Mr. Mengi and his outfit, it is just the layout of website is not inviting. Furthermore, articles on the website are not as updated as quickly as, let’s say, Daily News.

Nevertheless, I found myself going through the site today. Guess what I found? It is this hidden column by “Super Coach” himself, Syllersaid Mziray. Read on…

As a coach, I have to respect his analysis, which is based on an extensive experience in Tanzanian soccer. Man, you can’t argue with experience. In a nutshell, Super Coach dispelled some of the “myths” explaining why Tanzanian soccer players can’t go flying to the big leagues and also some other practical things that happen in the Tanzania’s soccer system that are bound to produce zero professional soccer players. One particular observation, however, that caught my attention was the following:

In most clubs, players will go to the training field late and hence fail to cope with the coach’s schedule and during training, they seldom engage seriously in the process

I know some folks think that I am taking this culture thing out of proportion, but …

Oh well.

I’m not a social science expert and therefore I am not really qualified to go into a deep analysis of what culture is or what it is not. The little I know, however, is that culture is just a body of rules governing a society. Those rules govern how one succeeds or fails; what one should say or not say in a particular situation, etc.

In a nutshell, what Super Coach tried to say, but came short of saying is this – the Tanzanian culture, particularly when soccer players fully embrace it – will never produce a player capable or worthy of playing in European leagues, for instance.

See, from my vantage point, culture creates expectations. And I can bet you my house that the highest expectation a soccer player can have in Tanzania is to play for Simba or Yanga. Period. A highest expectation a Simba or Yanga fan have is for their respective teams to win against their archrival and to clinch local trophies. You will never hear fans rioting because Coach Phiri, for instance, won a game against Yanga but got walloped by an Egyptian’s side. It is because the expectation, well, is kind of low in Tanzania.

Remember the clash between former Yanga’s “super star” Gaudence Mwaikimba and his former Serbian coach, Dusan Kondic? Do you really thik the conflict was about talent? All of that was simply a cultural conflict. It was a conflict arising from a huge expectation gap. And that expectation gap, amigo, was rooted in cultural differences.

Let’s think of this for a minute. Coach Kondic comes in, joining a team that he didn’t assemble. In the team, there’s this dude Gaudence Mwaikimba who was a star, with a “guaranteed” starting position regardless of dedication and effort level he shows in training. Don’t you think that conflict was only imminent when Coach Kondic emphasized discipline in training before a player was “guaranteed” any playing time?
On the flip side of better cultural inclination, remember the DRC national, Shabani Nonda who once played for Yanga? How did he manage to secure a team in Europe? Wasn't he playing on the same "ugly" soccer pitchs in Tanzania?

I think you get my point.

I have said this and I will say it again. Tanzania’s problems are not rooted in lack of experts, talents, resources or whatever you want to throw in the mix. Yeah, those play a part, but the worst enemy the country is facing is its own cultural inclination. The scary part, as I said about Hasheem Thabeet last time, the people are not even aware of it.

So go ahead and have your Vision 2025. However, without a cultural transformation to back that up, I can only say this quitely and nicely, good luck.
Photo credit: Michuzi

1 comment:

Mzee wa Changamoto said...

Dunno how i got here but am blessed to be here.
Thanx for seeing these things with inner eye.