Shared passion of Tanzania

ABIDJAN (AFM) - Building a national team on a strong core of players from the same club is not a new concept. It is, however, one that has captured the imagination in Tanzania as the country’s top club sent nearly their entire starting eleven to wear the national colours at the CAF African Nations Championship, in hopes of bolstering both club and country’s future.

Brazilian-born Tanzania boss Marcio Maximo took in his Taifu Stars took no less than 10 players from the country's club champions Young Africans FC to the maiden African Nations Championship (CHAN) presently being held in Cote d'Ivoire. Only African-based players are eligible for competition, in its inaugural instalment, and although the Tanzanians were knocked out in the group stages, they left with their heads held high.

A 1-0 defeat in their first game against Senegal was followed by a 1-0 victory over the hosts. In their final do-or-die group game against Zambia, they took a 1-0 lead in the 88th minute through defender Shadrack Nsajigwa, only to concede in the fading moments and see their hopes reaching the semis snuffed out.

Twenty-year-old striker Jerry Tegete, one of the ten Young African players in the Tanzanian squad, is confident that even the disappointment of being knocked out in such heart-breaking fashion has its positive spin. "The experience we all gained by playing in the tournament was immense. We can even learn something from the way in which we were knocked out,” the speedy forward told African Football Media. “Drawing a game in which we were leading with two minutes to go and knowing that we will progress if the result stays was terrible, but if we are in the situation again, we will be ready.

"The experience that we gained with the national team at the CHAN will hopefully also come to good use for Yanga (as Young Africans are known throughout the continent)," the player went on.

Taking on Africa's best
Tegete and his team-mates will not have to wait long before putting their international experience to the test as the 16-time Tanzanian table toppers travel to Egypt for a Round of 32 test in the CAF African Champions League on 14 March. Their opponents are no less than six-time African Champions Al Ahly, who in 2000 were named by CAF as the African Club of the Century.

The teenager is confident that Yanga will be able to test the reigning African champions. "Now we know we don’t have to be scared of anybody. I am not saying that we will beat Al Ahly and go through, but we certainly have a fighting chance."

Yanga's coach, Serbian Dušan Kondic, who was involved in Red Star Belgrade's successful UEFA Champions League campaign and Intercontinental Cup win in 1991, also believes that his side will not be disgraced against the mighty giants from Cairo, who boast some of Egypt’s top players. " I want fair play and an honest game and if we can then walk away having played well, I’ll be happy. You never know what will happen in football, but we don’t have to have a complex when we face them."

Kondic, who is married to an Angolan and has made Africa his second home, coached in Angola for well over 10 years, winning a domestic cup and league double there. With a working knowledge of the continent’s football, he knows exactly what his side is up against. "I have huge respect for Al Ahly, they have millions of supporters and are fully professional,” the coach said. “It is probably the biggest club on the continent and they represented Africa at the last World Club Cup.

Doing the job for the national coach
Kondic is not surprised that Maximo included ten of his players in the Taifu Stars' squad for the African finals in Cote d'Ivoire. "When I joined the club a year and a half ago, they had less than a handful of players in the national team. But we worked hard and we won the championship and need just one more win from six games to win again this season.”

The Serb also said that he has the highest regard for Maximo. "A national coach has a choice. He can either pick a few players from many different clubs, or he can go for a block and then in a way, part of his job has already been done for him as they will be used to a style of play. I suppose if he goes for a Yanga block, it shows that he believes in the work I am doing."

Now with national team duty out of the way, the block of Young Africans will need to re-focus their sights on their club, and a date with undisputed African royalty.

Copyright African Football Media (AFM), 2009

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