Marathon mania trends as real athletics gone

THE number of marathon races being staged countrywide is alarmingly high and that might convince everyone that athletics level is high.

The biggest of the marathon at the moment is Kilimanjaro Marathon which leads in attracting elite runners from outside the country, including the world athletics giants; Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.

Other notable marathons include Rock City, Bagamoyo, Manyara, Tunduru, Mbulu, Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, while recently Arusha is going Sokoine Memorial marathon to be held in April this year.

Still, despite the presence of all of these marathons, most of them are actually 21km half marathons, athletics in terms field and track events, has completely faded from the limelight or clinically dead. The Tokyo 2020 is a clear indication of the dead or dying athletics.

With only two athletes in bandwagon, Tanzania is among 207 countries that have confirmed to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics, scheduled to take place from July 24 to August 9 in Tokyo, Japan.

Today, just four months before the games start, only two athletes, precisely marathoners, have qualified for the world class events and there are all signs that Alphonce Simbu and Failuna Abdi, who have already met the qualifying marks will be the only envoys in Japan.

Tanzania will field the two runners out of 11,091 athletes in one game out 339 events in 33 sports (50 disciplines). It started fading some years ago with medal-less run in Olympics, Commonwealth Games and All African Games.

The difference between Tanzania and most other countries especially in East and Central Africa, about whose environments we are likely to be more familiar, is that economic growth leads to more facilities for youth to engage in training and exposure locally and outside.

Forty years after Tanzania won its first Olympic medals in Moscow, Russia through Filbert Bayi and Suleiman Nyambui, Tanzania has not tried much to revive many sports that made headlines during the Ujamaa era, and about dozens of them are reportedly dead.

Among them is wrestling, which during its heydays was one of the only three sports whose audience could pay a gate fee. Today it is football that charges entrance fee whereas the third one; boxing, has almost faded from limelight.

Despite its prominence and success, Tanzania has not fielded football teams in Olympics, hence count it out of Tokyo 2020. The 40-year Olympic medal drought likely to continue since the Tokyo 2020 campaign has not every Tanzanian affair, rather a media initiative.

Olympic mania is no longer there and so is the Club Games one. The last Commonwealth medal was won by Samson Marathon in Australia in 2006, since then nothing has been won, a situation that also kicked out the Olympic spirit and its associated sports.

As of today, there is considerable interest amongst Tanzanians in sports, with the country’s football, boxing and basketball teams all widely celebrated and keenly followed. Football predictably tops the most popular sports in Tanzania for both young and old.

It is an accessible game, cheap to play, and an integral part of every childhood. Boxing has lost popularity in Tanzania after a steadily rise about forty years ago. It is not a wonder to see boxing missing in Tokyo this time as nothing has been heard from Boxing Federation of Tanzania for quite a long time.

However, Tanzania suffers from a lack of structured training programmes, combined with a lack of organized financial support. Athletes are constantly struggling to gain worldwide recognition and also to encourage new blood to the sports.

Thankfully, there are now various organisations committed to overcoming these challenges and reaching the big leagues globally. Sports is becoming an important driver in the country and Tanzanians have also started to become professionals in newer international streams such as weightlifting, handball, and cricket.

Still more efforts and commitment are needed to bring football at the next level. Also declared dead are handball, badminton while netball, once the second to football is struggling to regain life at the deathbed.

MAJOR General Charles Karamba, Rwandan High Commissioner ...


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