THE medal haul campaign in Olympic Games of Tokyo has been the biggest theme of 2020. Are we ready for the mission?, the first half of this year will judge it.
The medal haul campaign was initiated four years ago during the Olympic Games of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil under the inspiration of marathoner Alphonce Simbu who finished 5th in the gruelling 42km race.
Alongside it, the campaign also aimed to revive Olympic spirit, whose initiator John Steven Akhwari happens to be a Tanzanian. The coming of 2020 with its medal hunt banner doesn’t mean only athletics, Tanzania’s major source of medal in Olympics and Commonwealth games, but all sports that feature in the world class events.
But sadly, at this moment, Tanzania has managed to produce only two athletes; Failuna Abdi Matanga and Simbu, who have met Olympic qualifying marks, while nothing has been reported in other sports such as boxing, swimming and judo which Tanzania participated in the recent world level games.
Forty years after Tanzania won its first Olympic medals in Moscow, Russia through Filbert Bayi and Suleiman Nyambui, Tanzania has not tried much to revive many sports that made headlines during the Ujamaa era, and about dozens of them are reportedly dead.
Among them is wrestling, which during its heydays was one of the only three sports whose audience could pay a gate fee. Today it is football that charges entrance fee where as the third one; boxing, has almost faded from limelight.
Despite its prominence and success, Tanzania has not fielded football teams in Olympics, hence count it out of Tokyo 2020. The 40-year Olympic medal drought likely to continue since the Tokyo 2020 campaign has not every Tanzanian affair, rather a media initiative.
Olympic mania is no longer there and so is the Club Games one. The last Commonwealth medal was won by Samson Marathon in Australia in 2006, since then nothing has been won, a situation that also kicked out the Olympic spirit and its associated sports.
As of today, there is considerable interest amongst Tanzanians in sports, with the country’s football, boxing and basketball teams all widely celebrated and keenly followed. Football predictably tops the most popular sports in Tanzania for both young and old.
It is an accessible game, cheap to play, and an integral part of every childhood. Boxing has lost popularity in Tanzania after a steadily rise about forty years ago. It is not a wonder to see boxing missing in Tokyo this time as nothing has been heard from Boxing Federation of Tanzania for quite a long time.
From late 1960s to late 1980 Tanzania was popular globally as the country that produces the most stylish boxers with big names like Lucas Msomba, Aloys Nuti, Neva Mkadala, Gerald Michael, Emanuel Mlundwa, Ahmed Tesha and Nassor Michael parading that kind of stylish boxing.
Titus Simba, who won a silver medal in Commonwealth Games of Edinburg Scotland Habib Kinyogoli, who also won a silver in All Africa Games of 1973 seemed to have opened the way to other medalists such as Willy Isangura, Haji Ally, Michael Yombayomba and the entire Matumla dynast.
Lack of planning, promotion and commitment bought boxing to stagnancy at both amateur and professional levels. Recently, only Hassan Mwakinyo is the Tanzanian boxer who has found a niche in international arena. Over the years, the country has been attempting to improve the quality of athletes across a wide variety of sports.
However, Tanzania suffers from a lack of structured training programmes, combined with a lack of organised financial support. Athletes are constantly struggling to gain worldwide recognition and also to encourage new blood to the sports.
Thankfully, there are now various organisations committed to overcoming these challenges and reaching the big leagues globally. Sports is becoming an important driver in the country and Tanzanians have also started to become professionals in newer international streams such as weightlifting, handball, and cricket.
Sports education has been made available in schools, colleges and virtually every institution in the country. It seems that Tanzania has not gone very far close at the global level as we have only Mbwana Samatta and Simon Msuva doing well globally.
Still more efforts and commitment are needed to bring football at the next level. Also declared dead are handball, badminton while netball, once the second to football is struggling to regain life at the deathbed.
Rugby, once very popular in the early 2000s has ceased to exist in terms of the national and regional level tournaments and nothing has been heard from its governing body for many years. To revive all of them needs a serious campaign and promotion that must involve every Tanzanian.