THERE is a say goes as ‘Age is nothing, but just a number’. This could be applicable in some profession like cooking and teaching. But when it comes to taking part in energetic sporting events like football, athletics and other indoor and outdoor sports, age could be a barrier.
However, we live in the World that many successful sports stars are proving that age is just a number. There are number of super star athletes globally who have defied their ages and still shine in their respective careers.
In Tanzania, we had a few those who proved that despite being old, they could still play at their 40’s. A former Simba Sports Club striker, Madaraka Selemani was among those who were still in their 40’s was playing competitively in football, featuring in the Mainland Premier League side, Simba Sports Club , giving a hard time to young players, when it came to defend him.
Players of such a high calibre have been inspiring the current young athletes in their careers, Asha Iddi, born in Arusha in 1975, is a female basketballer. She is among those who have proven that age is just a number in their competitive sporting careers.
She has continued to be at the top of the best level for many years with a high ability in the field and good attitude outside the pitch. She is still an active female legend in basketball for her career that has lasted for over 23 years since she got involved in the sport. She says that the reason behind her activeness is that she does not let a week passing by without walking two kilometres.
She made her basketball debut way back in 1997, when she made her international appearance in the East and Central African Basketball Club Championship took part in Nairobi, Kenya, when she played for JKT, an army owned team. She has since then been competing in both domestic and international competitions.
The last international assignment for her took place in 2018 when she enabled JKT being crowned champions of an invitational International tournament took place in Zambia.
“We were invited to Zambia after being crowned national champions,” says a towering Iddi.
“The Zambian tournament was extremely tough as we played four matches consecutively in a day before we were crowned champions,” she recalls.
That was not the first time for JKT to travel to Zambia. They did that repeatedly. The first time was before in the 2000’s when they finished in the semifinals of the same event. By the time, she was playing alongside an old friend, Elizabeth Masenyi, who has now turned to be a basketball coach.
Having playing basketball in all of decades, many would consider that it could now be the end for her career. But she proves them wrong.
“Basketball is in my heart, it is like I was born for it,” says Idd.
But how she became to be a basketball player? Iddi says that when she was a young school girl, she first used to like athletics and that was her favourite sport by then.
“I mostly used to like athletics to the extent that I was the first winner of Mount Meru by the time it was launched.”
“I can not remember the exact year that I won this title, but what I remember is that I was presented with a trophy and two crates of soda for emerging winner,’ she says. She says that she used to train at Kaloleni’s Soweto grounds in Arusha and since the grounds were common for hosting basketball tournaments, it was how she started creating an interest for the sport that is mostly loved by the youth. “I slowly started creating an interest and eventually found that I got married to it,” said Idd.
“By then I was a slim girl who could do all sort of jumping and movements for me easily persuade my mental coaches that i could do better in basketball than athletics” she says.
She was regularly playing both basketball and netball because they are similar sporting events, but she only became to specialize in the former. Her basketball career had since then grown from a domestic to an international level.
Idd has so many stories to tell in her basketball life, but in short, she started her basketball career with Arusha regional team, featuring in the National Basketball League (NBL) that took place way back in 1997 in Tabora. She later featured for other top popular clubs among others, Pazi, Cargo Stars and Don Bosco, with which they were crowned NBL champions.
One of the moments she recalls in her career was when she played for the national team that took part in the East African Championship held in Nairobi, Kenya.
“My performance was at a high peak by then, when I called coach Martin Kimwaga to substitute me, my fans refused, they wanted me to keep on playing without resting,”
“What I remember is that I gave coach Kimwaga a hard time when he wanted me to rest and give time for others,” “The spectators shout at him whenever he wanted me out,”
“It was because that they did not want our team to lose,” she says.
She says that she had a good partnership with teammate, the late Fanuna Yasin, who also happened to be one of the best postguards ever. Others she remembers is Judith Ilunda, who now seems to have retired from active basketball and netball.
“When I partnered with energetic Ilunda for Cargo Stars, we made an effective partnership since she was too good at taking rebounds.”
And among the players she admired most to play against during those hey days of her career was Edna Dausen of Pazi because things turned into ‘fire’ for their spirited kind of play whenever their rival clubs met.
“The best thing about our hey days is that we were fully self committed in training without being supervised by a coach or a trainer. “I personally used to do jogging from Tanesco basketball courts located in Oysterday to Coco Beach about 10 kilometres go and return, that is just a ‘warm up’ before the coach attends team’s joint training,”
“When he comes, he finds you already heated up,”
“But most of the players of this era do not train on their own voluntarily, wrongly thinking that they do that for the team instead of knowing that they do that for themselves. She also said that many of the players of this era do not do physical training for their own fitness, only to lose consistency in their good form despite being not too old. Iddi says that during their era, they could not play to the African or Olympics level because of lack of sponsorship. “I remember we were training hard only to be disappointed at the end of the day that we could not travel because of funds, it was very disappointing,” says Iddi.
She says the current generation has what it takes to win a majority of sponsorship should proper programmes be made by the sports officials to attract sports investors.
“ Unlike in the past, we have now plenty of companies/institutions which look for sports investments and lucky enough, football was among sporting events benefitting from that,” she says.
She calls up the Tanzania Basketball Federation (TBF) to come up with concrete plans that will be sustainable to attract sponsors. Iddi has hailed CRDB Bank for heavily investing in the ongoing CRDB Taifa Cup as more that 900 male and female youth taking part from over 20 Mainland and Zanzibar regions.
“What CRDB is doing now was supposed to be done ten years ago where we could be in another level of international competitions,” “However, we still have time to turn things around and move ahead,” she says.
Iddi said, during the CRDB Taifa Cup taking place at Chinangali in Dodoma, featured for Mbeya and her side was eliminated by Unguja in the quarterfinals Idd was probably the oldest player in the Taifa Cup history, scrambling for ball, making pace with fellow players, most of whom are at their 20’s and some of them could be her daughters.
The 45-year old says the reason behind her long-lasting that filled with triumph career was not because of her incredible talent, but discipline and continued physical fitness.
“ I always do a road work to maintain my tremendous level of physical fitness and prowess on the court. She regularly goes to a nearby gym for a muscular training and attends basketball’s evening training in Mbeya, where she is residing now. An immigration officer says the pace of basketball and its intensity needs one to be fit, eating well and get time to rest as one of the reasons for her to break age barrier, apart from less injuries.