MWALIMU Julius Nyerere is credited with having turned the then-young Tanzania into an ‘Omnisports’ nation, a legacy that still holds water today as Tanzanians celebrate 24th anniversary since his death.
The nation’s icon, the Father of the Nation, indeed left a landmark in the sports sector that he would share generation after generation.
Sports have been among the biggest beneficiaries under the presidency of Mwalimu Nyerere.
Many Tanzanians witnessed those significant improvements and excelled in athletics, boxing, and football.
Tanzania’s success during Mwalimu Nyerere’s reign has been a mark that athletes today are working hard to meet the standards.
The achievement was the country’s response to the Head of State’s directives in 1973 where he placed emphasis on building strong national teams for Olympic and club games.
The country massively embraced a multisport venture that opened doors to other sports at global class events.
Mwalimu Nyerere’s investment and success in sports during his reign
During his reign, the government took a number of measures geared at promoting and developing all sports disciplines during post-independence.
The foundation for sports development was notably laid from school games popularly known as UMISETA for secondary schools and UMITASHUMTA for primary schools.
The games provided a platform for talented young athletes to make breakthroughs and earn national and international recognition.
It should be remembered that it was during Mwalimu’s era when the country, for the very first time, participated in the African Cup of Nations in Nigeria in 1980.
Tanzania has only played in two Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), in 1980 and 2019 and this year qualified for AFCON 2023 for a third time. The finals will take place next year in Ivory Coast.
Apart from that it was also during Mwalimu Nyerere’s leadership era when Tanzanian athletes rocked the world.
Legend athletes that brought pride to the nation during his reign by picking up several medals in the Olympics, Commonwealth and All-Africa Games: Filbert Bayi, Suleiman Nyambui, Juma Ikangaa, Gidamis Shahanga, Habib Kinyogoli, Emanuel Mlundwa, Michael Yomba Yomba, Haji Matumla being the most brilliant ones.
In 1974, Bayi set the 1,500-metre world record at Christchurch’s Commonwealth Games. Thereafter Bayi and his colleague Nyambui won silver and bronze medals respectively at the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980.
Athlete John Steven Akhwari representing the country at the 1968 Mexico Olympics made headlines around the world. Despite having a serious injury he suffered during the race; he eventually finished in unbearable pain.
A similar event to Steven happened to another Tanzanian long-distance runner, Jackline Sakilu at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games. It clearly reflects the passion within Tanzanian athletes despite the difficulties they face when fighting for the country’s glory.
Despite not sealing a medal at the games, President Samia Suluhu Hassan and other officials hailed her spirit. Thereafter she received an award to acknowledge her fighting spirit.
Legends commenting on Mwalimu Nyerere’s reign to
‘Daily News on Saturday’ met with Mlundwa, the African flyweight legend who narrated to us Mwalimu Nyerere’s sports era.
He explained that sports did well during Mwalimu Nyerere’s time, as it started at the grass-roots level, where sports were encouraged in schools.
At that time, sports were part of the school timetable. Accordingly, all varieties of sports have the same weight. Students had the opportunity to choose athletics, boxing, football, basketball, netball or triple jump.
In addition, the government distributed sports equipment to each district, thus encouraging students in schools from primary to secondary schools to participate in sports.
Mlundwa added that during that time there were inter-school competitions through which they scouted players who formed national teams.
“The inter-school competitions and national teams were formed for global tournaments. The athletes in school had time to practice and time to study,” he noted.
Besides schools, the government chose several places to serve as community and recreational sports centres.
Furthermore, Mlundwa shared his experience, asserting that he joined the national boxing team in secondary school when he was 17 years of age.
“I joined the national team while studying; wherever I was supposed to join the national team, the school gave me permission,” he asserted.
Tanzania has continued to fight to strengthen the sports industry by gaining representation at major international championships.
Mlundwa issued advice to Tanzanian athletes to see glory in the global games: “Preparations must begin early and investments should be encouraged in young talents. Players should realise that it is a great honour to represent the nation in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.”
Apart from Mlundwa, Filbert Bayi confirmed he developed his skills through grazing animals and participation in sports at school.
“I used to participate in sports activities; I played football, long jump and athletics. In 1968 I participated in regional competitions, and I did well.”
1973 was a banner year in Tanzania’s sports history and two men, a middle-distance runner, Filbert Bayi and a boxer, Habib Kinyogoli, were arguably the figureheads.
Bayi beat the Kenyan world champion, Kipchoge Keino, in the 1,500 m race at the All African Games in Algeria to win the country’s first gold medal, almost ten years after independence.
In the same event, Kinyogoli added a silver medal after a controversial loss to Ugandan Omollo.
The two medals forced the late President, Mwalimu Nyerere, to publicly announce athletics as a ‘national sport’.
In 1980, the Moscow Olympics best described the success of Mwalimu Nyerere’s seed of Omni-sporting.
The country’s historical event was the Moscow Olympics. Besides earning Tanzania its only two medals, the games saw the fielding of a hockey team for the first time, as commended by an official in the Tanzania Olympic Committee (TOC), Muharami Mchume.
Moreover, it was the first team entry to the world-class event as the rest had always been individual performers.
Mwalimu Nyerere’s legacy in sports still live
In 2019, the senior national team made history by securing a spot in the AFCON after a 39-year absence from the continent’s top-flight tournament.
Despite participating in the two finals, Tanzania was knocked out earlier in the group stage.
This year Tanzania grabbed a third finals ticket. The finals will be staged in Ivory Coast next year. Tanzania will hope to do better in the coming finals.
After advancing to the AFCON finals, Taifa Stars received a 500m/- reward from President Samia Suluhu Hassan as a token of appreciation for such an achievement.
Other than sailing to the AFCON for the third time, there are a number of athletes who have evoked memories of Mwalimu Nyerere’s era.
Those athletes include Gabriel Geay, Alphonce Simbu, Magdalena Shauri, Yusufu Changarawe and Kassim Mbundwike.
In the marathon, Geay holds the national record as one of the best long-distance runners in the country. The most unique of Geay is breaking his own record.
In the 2022 Valencia Marathon, he clocked two hours and three minutes, setting a national record. Apart from breaking a national record, he improved his personal best time.
Before he set the national record for two hours, four minutes, and fifty-five seconds during the Milano marathon.
Another marathoner, Magdalena Shauri holds the women’s national marathon record. She shattered Banuelia Mrashani’s record by six minutes when she finished third in the Berlin Marathon. Banuelia record remained unbroken for 21 years.
Shauri clocked 2 hours, 18 minutes, and 41 seconds beating the past record of 2 hours, 24 minutes, and 59 seconds by over 6 minutes.
Tullo Chambo, who is the Athletic Tanzania (AT) Social Media Manager, confirmed that Magdalena has qualified for the Olympic Games to be held in Paris, France besides shattering the national record.
“AT congratulates Magdalena Shauri for winning bronze in the Berlin Marathon. She has set a new national record. Before her achievement, Banuelia Mrashani held the national record she had set in the Tokyo Marathon in 2002.
“Apart from winning third place and shattering the national record, she has qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Therefore, she joins Alphonce Simbu and Gabriel Geay.
“We are proud of her and hope this success will be a catalyst for other female runners and bring glory to the nation,” he said.
Magdalena grabbed a bronze medal behind Ethiopian Tigist Assefa who claimed gold after recording 2 hours 11 minutes 53 seconds and Kenyan runner Sheila Chepkirui who took silver with 2 hours 17 minutes 49 seconds.
Most notably the 2022 Commonwealth Games held in Birmingham, England where Tanzania returned with three awards (silver and two bronze medals).
It was from Birmingham where a marathoner, Alphonce Simbu and two pugilists, Yusuf Changarawe and Kassim Mbundwike won medals after the country failed to win a single medal for 16 years.
The last time a Tanzanian boxer won a medal in boxing was at the 1998 Club Games record, 24 years after Michael Yombayomba won the country’s first gold in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
After completing the campaign with three medals, Tanzania finished 32nd in the overall medal table.
The games involved 72 countries.
Such success has been unique in history as the last time Tanzania won a medal in the Commonwealth Games was in 2006 at the Melbourne Games through marathoner Samson Ramadhan who won gold.
Fabiano Joseph won bronze in the 10,000m race.
Since 2006, Tanzania had not won a medal as the country returned empty-handed in the games held in New Delhi in 2010, Glasgow, Scotland in 2014 and Gold Coast Australia in 2018.
Last month national boxing team captain Yusuf Changalawe proudly waved the national flag colours at Dakar Arena, Senegal after winning a silver medal in the Africa Boxing Olympic qualifiers.
The competition brought 235 boxers from 41 African countries to contest this year’s qualifier. Changalawe won silver after losing his final bout to Abdelrahman Abdelgawad of Egypt who won gold in the lightweight category.
Surely, Tanzania has witnessed a number of success since the establishment of nation in December 1961. Since then Tanzania has witnessed a lot of success in the sports sector and this year Tanzania has witnessed among its giant football clubs Simba SC shortlisted among the top eight clubs who will play the African Football League next week.
The most adorable is seeing Tanzanian’s venue Benjamin Mkapa Stadium hosting the league’s opening between Simba SC and an Egyptian giant Al Ahly.
Other than seeing such a milestone Tanzanian’s league has been highlighted among the five-best league in African continent. These all achievements would not have been possible without the government and private support in investing on infrastructures and team preparations.
It is this year Tanzania won co-hosting the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals in 2027 with Kenya and Uganda. It is crystal clear that Tanzania heads to reap big fortunes by winning the bid.