Why Athletics Tanzania deserves support


ATHLETICS Tanzania (AT) finally appears to be succeeding in returning Tanzania to its past glorious days of Filbert Bayi, Suleiman Nyambui, Clavar Kamanya, Gidamas Shahanga and TPDF Colonel (rtd) Juma Ikangaa.

One of the main reasons for this exciting, sporting development is that unlike the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF), AT have tried, albeit in small doses, to go back to past, but scientifically proven methods of harnessing athletic talents.

One of the things that forced me to say what I have just said is the growing enthusiasm for training I’m seeing around, enthusiasm from very young men and women, who want to use athletics in turning around their lives.

For instance, during a recent Junior Commonwealth Athletics Championship in Bahamas, a Tanzanian youth returned home with a bronze medal. Now if you asked me for an opinion, this is certainly not a bad start.

With time, that bronze medal would be turned into gold when the young man steps up to join adults.

And yesterday, another contingent of Tanzanian athletics team that had just had an audience, on the previous day, with the minister responsible for, among other things, sport, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, flew out of Dar es Salaam for the British capital, London, for the World Athletics Championship.

The contingent which included marathon star, Felix Alphonce Simbu, had massive doses of pep talk from Mwakyembe after he had presented them with the Tanzania national flag.

Minister Mwakyembe, who is himself a sports enthusiast, told the young men and women that involvement in competitive sports was a golden key which could open for them important doors to many opportunities that included exposure.

AT are succeeding because they have taken the sport to schools, a region where athletic talent is dormant. Their main objective is to harness the youthful talent into global athletic beaters, and because they have started on the youth when they are still in their tender age, it would not be difficult to mold them.

That soccer talent in Tanzania is in galore is not and has never been in dispute. But as we all know, talent is meaningless if it is not harnessed, and the absence of people who can harness soccer talent is what has led to where Tanzania is at present, a failure in soccer.

In fact, this is what I have endlessly been writing on since I started my sports columns. I have been appealing to outgoing crop of TFF leaders since they first took office, after the departure of former distinguished international and Engineer, Leodegar Tenga.

Week in, week out, I appealed to them to make mandatory for all clubs in the Vodacom Premier League to establish their own soccer academies.

Unfortunately my calls fell on the proverbial deaf ears, and our clubs continued to do what they believed to be the best way of building their teams, buying people they were convinced were good, soccer players.

And the result is what we have all witnessed, year in, year out, successive defeats. Of course, over the years we have had plenty of VPL champions in a league which we claim to be the best in the region.

But as we all know, these champions of ours have failed to reach even the quarterfinal of their respective continental clubs tournaments, again, year in, year out, in the last five years! Because our clubs are weak, as reflected by their poor record in continental clubs championships, we have as a result also had a very, poor national soccer team.

Yet we cannot blame these hapless players. After all, we selected them. They did not select themselves into the team. But had we listened to the voice of reason over the need to get into serious soccer academy business, we would have by now had a good team.

What has over the years disturbed me is the fact that we have behaved as if we were completely unaware of benefits that could be earned from such a programme. Yet this is perhaps the first country in Africa to have tested the fruits of soccer academy when Young Africans brought a Romanian coach, Professor Victor Stanculescus, in 1970.

The Romanian coach was told, in no uncertain terms, by Young Africans leadership to train the first team that had been taking part in the country’s premier league. But after a few weeks, the Romanian plucked courage and told his employers that the team they had was made up of old players and it would not take them far.

But the Young Africans leadership were adamant. They told the Romanian that was the team he had been brought to train. It was then that the Romanian coach hit a novel idea.

He decided to train, wholeheartedly, the team he had been given from 4pm onwards. However, from 1pm to 3pm, he concentrated on children whose age ranged between 12 and 14.

And within the first three years, Professor Victor, had produced a better team than the team he had been given. Of course, as they say, the rest is history. But the team that had been trained by the Romanian from tender age would dominate the Tanzanian soccer scene for two decades.

Had we had soccer leaders with the right mental attitude during the time, then this country could have long won the Fifa World Cup not to talk of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Therefore our problems have nothing to do with whether or not we have degrees or have played soccer up to international level. It has more to do with our attitudes. We have wrong attitudes.

Perhaps we now need to get into the new, TFF leadership former internationals. Yes, let us give them a chance instead of wasting time crying over Zanzibar expulsion from CAF.

What did we expect? CAF finally reminded us that we are a United Republic. One country and One Nation. They read the URT Constitution and got the answer in black and white. Cheers.

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