PRESIDENT John Magufuli yesterday officially announced that the imposing National Stadium in Dar es Salaam has been re-christened Benjamin Mkapa Stadium.
Magufuli made the declaration during the state funeral event at Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam for the former President Benjamin Mkapa, who is expected to be laid to rest today at Lupaso Village in Masasi District, Mtwara Region.
“Mkapa loved sports and I know that Tanzanians will never forget him for doing a great job, leading to the construction of the stadium”. “Many people want the stadium to be renamed after Mkapa. I know Mkapa was not interested to tag things after his name but because I have received many messages and that he cannot resist it, I now declare the venue as Mkapa Stadium,” Magufuli said.
He said the decision was reached so as to continue remembering his job well done in promoting sports in the country.
Magufuli added that he is aware that Mkapa was a Young Africans fan despite him not declaring in public that he used to support the Jangwani Street club.
“I can see former President Jakaya Kikwete conceding that Mkapa was a Yanga fan because even him (Kikwete), is a supporter of Yanga...But I do not know which team Ali Hassan Mwinyi belongs to,” said Magufuli.
The president further disclosed that Mkapa was the one behind the establishment of the Copyright Society of Tanzania (COSOTA).
Many sport stakeholders have been calling for authorities to consider renaming the Chinese built National Stadium after Mkapa, as one way to remember the fallen hero.
Among the sport persons who recommended for the rename of the venue after the late Benjamin Mkapa was the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF), president Wallace Karia, who insisted that time has come to fulfill that.
“I think this is the perfect time for our colleagues tasked to overlook the affairs of the national stadium to change its name to Mkapa Stadium so that the upcoming generations should always remember him,” Karia said recently.
It will be interesting to hear the name of Mkapa be regularly mentioned when national team, Taifa Stars, Simba or Young Africans use the venue to play matches,” Karia said.
He added that by renaming the stadium after the late Benjamin Mkapa, it will be a big honour similar to the ones given to fallen heroes like Karume Stadium in Zanzibar and Sheikh Amri Abeid Kaluta Stadium in Arusha, Sokoine Memorial Stadium in Mbeya and Samora Stadium in Iringa among others.
Moreover, Karia said the National Stadium has all the qualities required by the world football governing body (FIFA), hence it is a legacy, which will remain forever.
“We are fortunate to have such a magnificent stadium which is the best in East and Central Africa. Most of the countries in Africa do not have such kind of the stadium but we have it courtesy of the late Mzee Mkapa,” he said.
“I believe that by the time he decided to construct the stadium, he realised that football is now a major source of revenue generation and employment to players, who are making money to support their lives through football,” he added.
The 60,000 capacity Stadium was officially opened in 2017 hosting a memorable match between Taifa Stars and Mozambique ‘The Mambas’.
Former Taifa Stars player Abdi Kassim Babi, who served the national team for nearly 13 years, was the first player to score a goal at the massive stadium.