Twiga Stars depart for the Mozambique capital tomorrow for the start of the tournament next Saturday, in what will be the first time ever for the country to field a team in the soccer category of the event.
A contingent of 20 people, which includes 16 players and four officials, will represent Tanzania at the Maputo games, alongside athletics, boxing, Paralympics, judo and netball teams.
The players are skipper Sophia Mwasikili, Fatuma Omary, Mwanaidi Tamba, Fatuma Bashiri, Mwajuma Abdallah, Asha Rashid, Mwanahamisi Omari, Pulkeria Charaji, Ester Chabruma, Zena Khamis, Fridian John, Fatuma Mustafa, Ettoe Mlenzi, Fatuma Khatib, Maimuna Said and Mwapewa Mtumwa. Officials are head coach Charles Boniface Mkwasa and his assistant Nasra Mohamed, team doctor Gania Seif and team manager, Furaha Francis.
Mkwasa said his squad is full of confidence as it looks forward to stamp its authority in women soccer in the continent. "Our preparations for the event started in August 5, this year and the players have trained in different aspects, ranging from physical to tactical," he said.
"There will be no excuse as far as training is concerned. We have prepared well for the games and hopefully we will represent the country well," he added.
Mkwasa said his players will bank on the experience they gained from their participation in this year's Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Women Championship, which was held in Zimbabwe, to push their opponents in the All Africa Games all the way.
Twiga participated in the championship as guest team and finished third after beating Malawi in the play-off, with the event serving as the former's preparations for the All Africa Games.
"The COSAFA Women Championship has greatly helped us shape up for the All Africa Games. It is down to the players to demonstrate what they have been instructed in training and help the team excel in the Games," said Mkwasa.
"I am optimistic that my squad stands a great chance of performing well in the games if players will follow at least 50 per cent of instructions they got in training," he added. Mkwasa played down fears that Twiga Stars might face an early exit in the event, as the team has been put in what is largely seen as the tougher of the two groups of the women soccer event.
Twiga Stars is in group B with continental women soccer giants, Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe and the Tanzanians are expected to open their campaign by facing Ghana on September 5 at the refurbished Estadio do Zimpeto in Maputo.
"Our group is just normal we know almost all our opponents well. Tanzanians should never be worried about the group and our opening match against Ghana will hopefully offer inspiration to perform well in the rest of the matches," said Mkwasa.
Mkwasa hinted that the inclusion of striker Asha Rashid, who has just recovered from a knee injury, has aimed at bolstering the team's attacking force, considering that the towering striker is one of dependable attackers.
"Asha had previously been sidelined by a knee injury but she recently removed the Plaster of Paris (POP) and had started light training. We felt the urge to take her with the rest of the squad because we still need to strengthen our attacking force.
Hopefully we will use her if the squad progresses to the latter stages," he said. Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) Information Officer, Boniface Wambura, said the team will be bade farewell at its camp at Tumbi in the Coast Region today, prior to heading for Maputo the following day.
by Japheth Kazenga
29 August 2011