His arrival in the country early this week meant a lot for Tanzania sports, especially basketball, which for the past decade or so, has received tremendous support from the US-- world’s basketball powerhouse. Obama is well known for his love of sports. He has always been a loyal basketball fan, and later in his life, he became a fan of playing golf.
He revealed on Monday that he and his host President Jakaya Kikwete did not have time to talk about Tanzania’s professional basketball player Hasheem Thabeet when the two leaders met at the State House in Dar es Salaam but he was open for such discussions in the future.
Apparently, his public recognition of Thabeet and declaration of possible talks about the player in the future during such a high profile press conference landed the country’s basketball and sports sector, in general, big mileage. It was even more fitting for Thabeet, who is the tallest active player in the NBA, given the mention came from the man who excelled in basketball and graduated with academic honours in 1979.
Definitely, Obama’s visit in Tanzania should have inspired young basketball players to progress and prosper in the sport and helped add much thrust to the Tanzania Basketball Federation (TBF) ambitions to reinvigorate the sport, which needs expertise and investments on youth development programmes to grow.
It is a fact that basketball in Tanzania is not doing very well, at the moment, and the TBF have no tangible answer for the downfall. They always run the leagues but certainly, there is always no funding and sponsorships. The challenge for the TBF is to change its approach from entirely depending on government and instead, look for corporate sponsorship to help finance its programme, if there is any, anyway.
TBF leadership should also come up with a clear long term schools development programme that would help develop young players into good and responsible national team stars. If this is done Tanzania will produce more Thabeets.