The President of Tanzanias Views on Sports Development
By Israel Saria
I recently had the rare opportunity to meet His Excellency, the Hon. J.M. Kikwete, during his recent trip to London who is obviously well informed of sports issues, nationally and internationally. We discussed a range of sports issues including the national football teams current training in Brazil, the new national sports centre in Dar es Salaam, the future of UMITASHUMTA and premiership football. Below is a summary of main points covered in the exchange.
President of the United Republic of Tanzania, the Hon. J.M. Kikwete with the author of this website, Mr Israel Saria, in London recently.
The President started by underlining that it is the Minister of Sports whose duty it is to speak about sports and all issues relating to sports in Tanzania.
But I am often asked about sports and I understand how the people feel about the under performance of our national teams and clubs that have been a feature up to now, said the President. Its important we work to develop all sport. I respect other sports disciplines and their players as much as football and I am not biased in putting more focus on football. But we need to start from somewhere. As football is extremely popular it makes sense to invest and work with global structures in developing it. It is also much easier to attract investors as they find it easy to work on football.
It is the aim of my government to see sports progress to the international level. We have to distinguish though between promoting sports and creating awareness of sports. Football is well known throughout the country so it does not need any promotion apart from improving the scouting process for new talent. It should be possible to have a situation whereby players with potential can be identified and get professional assistance and from there we can develop them through good programmes without interfering with their studies or lifestyle. This is not just for football it can be in any sports.
I do not have any problem with bringing UMITASHUMTA back, Mr Saria, the President said. My concern is do we really need our children to travel across the country to go for tournaments? What about the travelling conditions? What about accommodation for the students? What about insurance for their injuries or accidents? You come from Dodoma, and you remember in 1996 the road accident where one student, travelling from Kondoa District to Dodoma from the regional UMITASHUMTA games, was killed travelling in a municipal rubbish truck. I dont want this to happen again.
I understand the importance of UMITASHUMTA in the development of sports in our country, but we also have to understand the health and safety aspect as far as children are concerned. We can still identify talents by having good planning and organisation. Remember we used to have Mohammed Chuma, Maulid Dilunga, Adam Sabu, Sunday Manara, Abdalah Kibaden and many more and we did not have UMITASHUMTA then and they were identified and brought to the international level and some were even identified in the then African combined team. So we can still identify the new talent without making students travel long distances for competitions.
So it is up to the Minister of Sports to come up with a good structure for how talent can be identified from class level up to national level. We should not forget that we also have good talent on the street and in some way this talent has to be identified and developed by having sports officers in the area or in clubs and retired sports figures, for example.
The building of the sports centre is a massive investment for the country and it shows how seriously we are about promoting sports in Tanzania. When we are talking about promoting sports we also have to think about infrastructure and good facilities. Without a good stadium we can not achieve this. However, we can not be proud of having a new state of the art sports complex without having in place people with expertise and experience to run it. We have to also think how we are going to generate funds out of this investment. It has to be self-financing – we cant just depend on local gate collections from Simba and Yanga.
|New National Sports Centre in Dar es Salaam|
For example we can target teams from Europe or other parts of the world to come here during the South Africa World Cup in 2010. These teams can come prior to the tournament and use the facilities for training and acclimatise to the weather conditions which are not that different than South Africa. By doing this we can generate some income and at the same time it can benefit the tourist industry.
I am also very keen to see proper management of the sports centre and that it creates employment among Tanzanians who merit working on the project, he said.
On the Gym Industry
I really believe in fitness especially among leaders as most of them are spending a lot of time sitting in offices. Myself, I enjoy walking when I get time and do some cardiovascular training using tread mill machines etc, said the President.
However, it is very important for a person to have his/her health checked before going to the gym as people sometimes want to rush to increase muscle without knowing their fitness level first. For people who live in areas where there is no gym, they have to organise themselves doing day to day walking and running as this helps keep up fitness levels.
On Premiership Football and Opportunities for Tanzania
I asked the President which premiership team he supports.
I support Newcastle United, he said. I am just a normal fan who follows the performance of the team but I can not lose sleep if they lose the match. I hope they will do better next season. My favourite premiership footballer is Allan Shearer He is a very good model for young footballers with good principles of what he is doing. I don’t understand why he retired while he could still be playing. The former Ghanaian international player, Tony Yeboh, is another of my favourite players of all time.”
I asked him about the youth programmes that the premiership clubs have. The President was very interested to know how the Arsenal coach, Arsene Wenger, manages to have a good scouting system for new talented players including from Africa. He indicated interest in meeting Arsene Wenger and visiting the Emirates Stadium. I am not an Arsenal supporter but I really like the way they bring youth together especially from Africa and other parts of the world and build up strong teams – with smaller budgets compared to some premiership teams. It is my hope that the scouting system of Arsenal will reach Tanzania some day and we in government will be ready to support and work with this type of programme.
I want to say this, let everyone do his/her job according to the position. Its up to all sports associations to work towards identifying and developing new talent and to make sure we spend more time on productive tasks rather than unnecessary conflicts among leaders within the sports circle.
That is why whenever I go in the world I try to find something good for the sports community in Tanzania by talking to other leaders of other countries on how to help us achieve top performance in sports. I am keen to see Tanzania is making progress in regional competitions in football, volleyball, netball, handball, basketball, hockey and athletics, the President concluded.
English FA and Tanzania
Later on during the Presidents trip to the UK he met with Sir David Richard, Chairman of the English FA. Sir Richard is planning to visit the country with a team of experts to assess the country’s development needs. Sir Richard said that he is ready to work with the Tanzania Government to see how to promote football and sports in the country and that they will go to Tanzania to assess needs before starting.
He said they have set up a soccer academy in South Africa and they can look into the ways of building a similar academy in Tanzania, which will have the required training equipment. The academy would be used to train young players aged between five and twenty years, train coaches and instructors and also be used to train soccer administrators.
On his part, President Kikwete was happy with the FA’s gesture and elaborated in details how his government intends to transform the game of football in the country.
“I am happy to have met and exchanged ideas with you on how you can help us…we are eagerly waiting for you and I can promise we will accord you all the necessary support,” said President Kikwete.