WHEN I go through the sports pages of our daily and weekly newspapers I ask myself what has gone wrong with netball which three decades back it was a popular sport all over the country.
Nowadays there are reports and articles of this game only when there are national and international tournaments for our clubs and the national team.
I still remember with joy when hundreds of people flocked to playing grounds in Dar es Salaam and other towns in the country for three to four days a week to see our young girls and middle aged women play the game.
Apart from providing entertainment to many people and staying away from gossip centres doing nothing fruitful or bars and pombe shops to help the players to keep themselves healthy and away from “dangerous games” that can have negative effects to their lives.
The Railways Club and Tazara Club in Dar es Salaam were among places which were famous for the sport. At that time there were more than 20 netballs teams in Dar es Salaam which were well organised and supervised.
These includes; Jeshi Stars, the National Service, the National Insurance Corporation, Harbours (Bandari) and Bora which provided an entertaining performance that won the hearts and admiration of both men and women, young and old.
Several ministries, public and private institutions and schools had teams which participated in several leagues, knock out and national tournaments organised by the Tanzania Amateur Netball Association, Chaneta which was formed in 1966.
It is very unfortunate that all that enthusiasm, excitement and entertainment now seem to be part of history of the sport in the country. Instead women soccer, introduced two decades back, seems to be gaining ground at a fast pace while netball is sinking deep in the Indian Ocean.
What is more disturbing is that there seems to be no serious efforts to salvage the game. Several times officials of the Chaneta have promised that they are doing all they can not only to make sure that the sport stands on its feet again, but runs at a fast pace.
Unfortunately, we frequent hear reports of leadership squabbles, mismanagement of funds and its officials complaining that they don’t get support and sponsorship as we see in soccer from the government, public and private companies, as well as individuals.
One may not be wrong to say that the sport is in lying in a coma in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and we may not in the far distant future hear that arrangements are underway for the burial ceremony.
The introduction of the game for men so as to recapture part of the interest that netball used to enjoy in the past has not helped much. Sometimes Chaneta launched a campaign dubbed ‘Msichana Netiboli’ (Netball Girl), but it looks like the programme ended its journey in the files and computers and there are no signs of bearing fruits.
The question is who is to be blamed for the lost interest in this once a popular sport in the country. Perhaps some officials of Chaneta who were the stars of different teams and the national squad a few years back have not been fully committed in promoting the sport.
I can still recall when it was reported a few years back that Chaneta collected more than 50 million shillings from well-wishers and corporate sponsors for staging a competition held at the Filbert Bayi School in Kibaha in the Coast Region.
But at the end of the tournament some officials of Chaneta were alleged to have misused part of the money and were suspended to allow investigation.
However, there has been no word on the results of the investigation, if they were held as promised. I think that scandal has to some extent contributed to lack of interest by some corporations, institutions and individuals to help them with funds and equipment to promote the game.
I think it is high time Chaneta is restructured, but even officials who were said not to be involved in the Kibaha “robbery without violence” should not be elected because this would not help to restore public confidence.
On the other hand, the Sports Directorate, public corporations private companies and sports clubs should think of how best they can to revive and promote the sport within our educational institutions and in their houses.
All this requires good planning and to have people who not only know the basic skills of the games, but also love and committed in promoting the sport. We must do all we can to uplift the game nation- wide and not just to raise funds for the Taifa Cup or for our teams to travel abroad to attend sports conferences or to participate in international tournaments.
We want Chaneta with a new face that will raise public interest in the game and organise training courses and camps on skills and tactics of the game for players, coaches and umpires in different parts of the country.
Several countries have succeeded in promoting the game by having exhibition games and competitions for juveniles so as to raise interest in the sport among the young ones, as we see in soccer.
Let us do the same, but this will require adjustments, such as putting in place shorter goal posts. But leaving this task to Chaneta alone is not fair.
Let us all help in one way or another to revive the game so as to give our girls the right venue for competitions as well as a place to see pleasure and fun for themselves and their fans.