We want to inculcate patriotism? Invest in sport
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TWO things were announced last week, both by the Union President, Dr John Magufuli, as Tanzania prepared, with pomp and pageantry, to mark its 56th Independence anniversary.

One was the directive to government leaders to make full use of Kiswahili, and two, the importance of inculcating patriotism between and among Tanzanians. I totally agree with the belated pronouncements which should have actually been made immediately after independence.

But there is a problem. Making full use of Kiswahili is not difficult. But the problem is inculcating patriotism. Indeed, how does one go about inculcating patriotism, into Tanzanians, and especially so, starting with children?

At the height of the Cold War between East and West, communist countries in the Soviet Block that had countries like East Germany, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria, just to mention a few, sports was extensively used not only to win over the youth within the communist block, but also to build patriotism which was crucial in defending the communist system against the more developed capitalist system.

Sports dominance by communist countries also helped such countries in show-casing such countries to the world. Although countries in the East communist block could not beat the West in the realm of technology, especially in mass production of industrial products.

However, their modest success in sports during international sporting competitions that included the Olympic Games, somewhat succeeded in enticing some countries in the world. The communist block chose sports as a venue for announcing their existence because it was easier to invest in sports rather than in technology.

That situation still remains today, when one compares to massive investment required in science and technology. Investment in sports is somewhat cheaper, and that is what Tanzania can also do, that’s if it wants to inculcate patriotism, especially among its youth.

When teams start winning in international sporting competitions, more and more youth will not only like to associate themselves with such successes, but will also carry around the national flag in the course of celebrating their national victories.

In 1970s, Nigeria had a boxer who went by the name of Dick Tiger. The young man licked the world in the realm of boxing, winning numerous titles in professional boxing. And whenever he was preparing to take on his opponents, on the eve of his boxing bout, his handlers made him sleep on the national flag.

When the handlers were asked by sports journalists why they always made Dick Tiger sleep on the Nigerian flag on the eve of his fights. They said sleeping on the national flag literally challenged Dick Tiger to fight to the last atom of his energy in honour of the Nigerian nation.

Sports and sporting figures have, times without number, been used by nations the world over not only for inculcating patriotism, between and among their people, but also for solving national problems.

For instance, when the West led by the United States wanted the world to boycott the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow on account of the then Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, they sent around the world not the foreign secretary of state, but former world heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali flew around the world, including Tanzania. But Tanzania ignored the boycott and sent its team to Moscow. The Moscow Olympic Games failed to live up to their expectations because of the absence of top flight sporting nations that included the mighty Kenyans.

Had Tanzania had a sporting contingent as good as that of Kenya, its presence in the Moscow Olympic Games would have had strength. During the Ivory Coast conflict between the south and the Muslim north, former Chelsea’s player, Didier Drogba, flew home to a meeting of north and southern leaders.

Drogba went on his knees, begging both sides to stop fighting. The result? They stopped fighting. The two sides stopped fighting because whenever Drogba was playing, fighters from both sides stopped fighting and watched their son in action.

And that is how influential sports can be. Sports do not only help in inculcating patriotism, especially between and among the youth in the country, but if well invested can serve as a major source of employment. At present Nigeria has over 300 professional soccer players in Europe playing from third division to premier leagues. Consider how much money, in foreign exchange, the West African country earns through its footballers.

At one time, two Ivory Coast professional soccer players and brothers, Yaya and Kolo Toure, used to earn over 800,000 British sterling pounds per month in salaries when they were playing in two different English premier league clubs. But how do we make sports help in inculcating patriotism between and among our youth in Tanzania? We need to invest heavily, not only in industries, but also in sports because sports is also an industry.

That can be done through construction of sports infrastructures that includes, among others, soccer pitches and sports academies and their respective instructors. You can imagine how much the English premier league, which is one of the best paid in the world, contributes to the British economy.

Apart from strengthening the British economy, football has helped, quite considerably, in inculcating patriotism in that country. If you want to know how much the beautiful game has helped in inculcating patriotism in England, take a glance at the British soccer fans. Whenever the British national soccer team, the three lions, is playing, British fans would sing their national anthem now and then.

British soccer fans are so much in love of their country that they follow their national soccer team all over the world clad in the British flag, the Union Jack. Therefore, if really want to inculcate patriotism among Tanzanians, the way forward is through sports, and soccer in particular.

In fact, that is the only way that we will have fewer and fewer Tanzania soccer fans admiring English premier league clubs! Our people admire, love and like to associate themselves with English premier league clubs because Tanzania has failed to provide them with alternative clubs and that is how not to build patriotism.

Since Tanzania started taking part in Olympic Games, it has never had its national anthem played at the Games because we have never won a gold medal in such competition. But there is no better way of building patriotism than doing it through sports when a country national anthem is played.

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