THE UEFA Champions League was, once again, back this week, under what organisers refer to as the group of 16 in which if a team loses in its two matches of home and away, then it bids farewell to the elite European soccer tournament.
Top flight European soccer clubs, including the English reigning UEFA Champions, Liverpool and PSG were both given a taste of their own medicine when they went down 0-1 and 1-2 against Diego Simione’s Athletic Madrid and Borussia Dortmund respectively.
A review of both matches just shows why the rest of the world, including of course Tanzania, would have to run, as once noted by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, as others walk! The cracking pace with which both matches were played, and throughout the regulation time, was just amazing.
I just asked myself if our boys could match that kind of pace if they had the opportunity of joining such European clubs.
But what the world saw, during this week’s UEFA Champions League just goes to show why our countries need to work extremely hard in preparing our children in different sports disciplines if they are to compete against the best in the world.
Yet preparing our children so that they could compete with the best in the world is not all that difficult. But our problems, just as it has been in other spheres, is our lack of drive to do the same kind of things, but differently.
For instance, on Wednesday this week, I spoke of this German girl who has Tanzanian blood, Malaika Mihambo, who has been creating her own waves of successes in the European athletics circuit in her breathtaking long jump.
Malaika is hardly 18, yet the kind of performance she has been putting up since 2015, starting with the World Youth Athletics Championship is out of this world. But Malaika has been doing what she has been doing not because she is a super human, far from it. She is just like our own children.
But the difference between our children and her is that she has been prepared from her childhood to do what she is now doing. The girl has already jumped seven metres, and the mark is the best in the world this year. But given her young age, it would not be a surprise if she could jump to eight or nine metres.
After all, age is still on her side. Now my humble question to my fellow Tanzanians is; Why are we not doing what others, in the sports sector, are doing in other parts of the world? Is it lack of money or the absence of the right crop of personnel?
Again, do you remember what the founding father of this nation, Mwalimu Nyerere once said? To succeed in development you need four things: Land, good policies, people and leaders. Do we have good leaders in sports? Again, if somebody told me that it was lack of money, I wouldn’t buy such a crap.
Why? This is because, barely one month ago, Simba’s investor, Mohamed Dewji alias MO, complained over his expenditure of 4bn/-, on the players’ salaries, in two years. Yet the team’s performance (then) had left a lot to be desired.
Last year, Simba’s soccer arch rivals, Young Africans claimed that they had collected 3bn/- from their members, fans and well, wishers and sponsors in less than a month. They would use the money collected in buying the players they now have who are not bad.
Yet they have more or less the same problem Simba had faced in January this year, poor performance. And this was admitted by none other than their own Assistant Coach, Charles Boniface Mkwassa; and this is what has continued to baffle me to the core. Yes, why are our well paid players fail to deliver?
The money collected/spent by both clubs, which is seven billion Tanzanian shillings was the Dar es Salaam city’s budget in 1970s when we had players like Sunday Manara (ball juggler), his brother, Kitwana Manara, Kassim Manara, Willy Mwaijibe, Chitete, Athuman Mambosasa and so on and so forth.
Yet the kind of football produced by the fore mentioned players was second to none. What is more, they were not getting the kind of money present players are getting. If we would have had the players I have mentioned above, today, then you would forget your Mbappes and Neymar. And, this was not in football per se.
In athletics, we had Colonel (rtd), Juma Ikangaa, Captain (rtd), Filbert Bayi and you cannot believe it, we also had a 400m champion Claver Kamanya who won a bronze medal in the even during the All Africa Games in Lagos, Nigeria in 1974.
Our neighbours to the north, Kenya, have continued, for years, to do extremely well in international athletics championships which includes the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and the IAAF (International Amateur Athletic Federation).
Yet according to my friend, Juma Ikangaa, the kind of terrain Kenyan long distance runners come from are also to be found in Tanzania in areas such as Singida, Arusha and so on and so forth.
The proverbial million dollar question is; If our own neighbours, Kenya, can exploit people from Rift Valley in international athletic championships, why are we not doing the same thing when we have, equally, the same kind of terrain Kenyans have?
My humble suggestion to the powers that be is, forget Athletic Tanzania, and give Juma and other former Tanzania gold medalists the requisite money to go and search for athletic talents in areas where they come from.
• Attilio Tagalile is a journalist/author and media consultant based in Dar es Salaam and can be contacted through email@example.com