Poignant Farewell of Jellah Mtagwa: Tanzania’s Forgotten Soccer Captain

DAR ES SALAAM: You know what? Tanzania would be a grand palace if it had a Hall of Fame for Neglect. And its most illustrious residents would be our sports heroes.

Imagine a place where the echoes of forgotten cheers and discarded trophies haunt the hallways.

Introducing Jellah Mtagwa, a soccer legend whose skills were so extraordinary, he could outmaneuver a cheetah while balancing a tray of scalding coffee. This man was not just a player, he was an icon!

But how do we bid him farewell? With a send-off quieter than a mouse with a sore throat. The ceremony was so hushed that you could hear the grass grow.

It’s a stark injustice, a travesty wrapped in neglect! This is how we chose to honour Jellah, a man who brought glory to our nation.

Jellah Mtagwa, who once led the Tanzanian national team to glory, was buried with the fanfare of a librarian’s sneeze.

Jellah Mtagwa

This man graced East Africa postage stamps and made fans’ hearts race faster than his penalty kicks. And his farewell? It was as thrilling as watching paint dry.

Zamoyoni Mogella, the “Golden Boy” of Tanzanian soccer, could not hide his frustration during Jellah’s funeral in Morogoro.

“Jellah deserved better,” he lamented. “Today, he rests like someone who missed their alarm. Yet, we expect his peers to emulate his spirit. Good luck with that!”

Mogella’s plea was more apparent than a high-definition TV: “Tanzania, wake up! Honour your heroes!”

He pointed out how other countries treat their athletes like royalty, while here, they are lucky to get a nod from the cemetery groundskeeper.

And it is not just Jellah…

Filbert Bayi, who set a world record in the 1500 meters at the 1974 Commonwealth Games, also deserves a hero’s treatment.

Instead, people in the streets probably mistake him for the guy who works at the Bajaj garage at Buguruni Malapa!

Then, there is Juma Ikangaa, the marathon king.

He won the 1989 New York City Marathon and placed high in Boston and Tokyo. His recognition back home? It’s so sparse that you’d think he was just another face at the fish market.

Gidamis Shahanga, another unsung hero, won gold at the 1978 All-Africa Games. His achievements are as remembered as last week’s shopping list.

And Suleiman Nyambui, a silver medallist in the 1980 Moscow Olympics? He enjoys the anonymity of a ninja among joggers.

Boxing greats like Habibu Kinyogoli and Emmanuel Mlundwa share the same fate. Despite their Olympic glory, they get as much recognition as the local cat.

Lucas Msomba? Another ghostly figure in Tanzanian sports history, languishing at his humble Kibaha home, living the life of a pauper!

The list of overlooked heroes is longer than a Katavi National Park giraffe’s neck.

Their achievements gather dust in the archives while we wait until they “kick the bucket” to pretend we care.

How about a bit of recognition before it is too late?

For instance, the renowned Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam would be great.

Of course, renaming it favouring athletes like Filbert Bayi or Juma Ikangaa is extreme, but that is not the objective.

Instead, the solicitous renaming of its many stands could constantly remind them and us of their heroic contributions.

Let us take a more modest approach: why not simply give the 60,000-seater stadium some personality?

Our stadium’s stands, currently as unremarkable as a stonewashed photograph on a wall, are known by uninspiring names like ‘Mzunguko’, ‘orange seats ‘, ‘blue seats ‘, ‘VIP A ‘, ‘VIP B ‘, and ‘VIP C ‘.

Imagine if VIP A became the “Jellah Mtagwa Stand,” a beacon of inspiration for all. A place that celebrates a footballer and role model so inspiring he could motivate Yanga or Simba to win the Africa Club Championship.

Or VIP B could transform into the “Leodegar Tenga Stand,” in honour of the former national team captain and current Chairman of the National Sports Council.

Tenga has more leadership skills in his pinkie finger than most of us do in our bodies.

Wasn’t this guy who also transformed the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) into what it is today when he was boss there?

And why stop there? Let us sprinkle a little hero dust on other venues, too: Jamhuri, Sokoine, Mkwakwani, Kirumba, Sheikh Amri Abeid and others all over the country.

Even the proposed shiny new AFCON stadiums could all do with that dose of legendary magic before the first brick is laid!

Indoor arenas could follow suit, with halls named after musical icons like Mbaraka Mwinshehe, Salum Abdallah, Morris Nyunyusa, Marijani Rajabu and Mzee Makongoro.

We could even honour contemporary artists whose music today greatly publicises this country more than any other sector…

Ali Kiba, Diamond Platnumz, and Harmonize, Marioo, Nandy, Phina, to name but a few, are some artists who deserve such an honour.

Why? Nothing says “timeless legend” like an artist with more Instagram followers than the population of a small country.

Remember the national leaders like General Mirisho Sarakikya, whose tenure as Chief of Defence Forces and Sports Minister saw Tanzania dominating multiple sports than at any other time.

This idea is not just about nostalgia; it is about making sure our sports heroes don’t fade into the annals of history like old newspaper clippings lining a birdcage.

Imagine fans sitting in the “Mtagwa Stand” and feeling warm pride (and maybe a slight sunburn), knowing they are celebrating a national legend.

READ: Tackling Doping in Tanzania: A Giggles-Filled Race Worth Running

Renaming stadium stands can also be an educational goldmine, a living history lesson for our children.

Kids would ask, “Dad, who was this Jellah Mtagwa guy?” parents could regale them with tales of athletic prowess instead of the usual “back in my day” stories.

It turns every game into a living history lesson while munching njugu na karanga in the Kibadeni or Sunday Manara stand! And honestly, who does not want that?

Imagine how much more intense and emotional chants would be when fans are not just cheering for their team but paying homage to heroes who encapsulated the nation’s spirit.

The “Sarakikya Stand” would be a section of the stadium and a sanctuary of pride and hope. In this place, even the grass whispers legends.

And let us remember the bragging rights! Picture Tanzanian fans swaggering into international stadiums, talking about the “Harmonize Hall” and the “Diamond Platnumz Pavilion.”

It adds a layer of swagger to our step, making us stand a bit taller – not just because we’re sitting on our wallets filled with national pride.

After all, who wouldn’t want to take a selfie in front of the “Mbaraka Mwinshehe Arena,”” Marioo Hall,” “Rayvanny Pavilion,” “Afande Sele Place” “Juma Kilaza Dome?”

It is the perfect mix of glamour and grit.

Moreover, renaming the stands would serve as a sobering reminder for current athletes: aim high and leave a legacy.

It turns every match into a potential historical event, where modern players can envision a time when their names might grace a stand where future generations will sit in awe.

It is high time Tanzania seizes this opportunity. Our sports heroes deserve more than just fleeting headlines; they deserve eternal respect and recognition.

Let the Jamhuri, Sokoine, Mkwakwani and other Stadiums be more than just steel and concrete structures (and bald pitches?).

They deserve celebrations that echo through the ages, inspiring future generations to dream big and strive for greatness.

If we don’t honour our legends, we are not just failing them—we are failing ourselves and the future of Tanzanian sports.

Jamani, let us give Jellah and his peers the recognition they deserve. You know what? We may inspire a new generation of heroes.


Related Articles

Back to top button