When you mention tennis to any Tanzanian they always connect it to either a Muhindi or Mzungu game. Most of us have heard of Gymkhana Clubs – a place we do not dream of entering, not unless you are searching for a job or accompanying wealthy or foreign visitors.
You have to be well connected to go to the Gymkhana, normally, well attended and thoroughly, guarded. Here you shall find golf, squash, cricket, snooker , football and tennis. If you go through the Tanzanian Ggymkhana Club 2016 website you will be told it has been around a hundred years, since 1916.
Those were colonial days.
How many Tanganyikans would have played tennis then, let alone venture into the very secluded green grounds in the major towns of Tanga, Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Moshi and Mwanza? Or my lovely town of Dodoma (Jamatini), The Dar es Salaam Gymhkana club today boasts, 14 grand courts for tennis, and is “the biggest arena in East Africa and ideal to host international matches.”
That will probably be news to most of us who hardly ever watch tennis, either locally , let alone world famous tournaments like the Grand Slam. Of all these tournaments, Wimbledon is the most known. It was formed in 1877, when Tanganyika was just an area governed by chiefs Mkwawa, Meli, Milambo, Mwinyi Heri, etc.
To cut a long story short, the recent international tennis match fixing scandal would not bat the eyelid of any Tanzanian. For the overseas folk they would have heard of Andy Murray, a very competitive tennis player. His year was 2012 when he won both the Olympic Wimbledon and US Open titles.
He is currently world number two after Novak Djokovic. Both commented on the scandal. Murray told BBC young players have to be warned. “When people come with those sums of money when you are that age, people can make mistakes,” he said. Novak Djokovic, claimed that he was offered 110,000 pounds ( 344 Million Shillings approx) to lose a match in 2007. He refused.
Where exactly is the money in this?
Apart from sports endorsements, the biggest money earner is betting online, nowadays. According to media sources, football and tennis are the main money earners through gambling and betting online. Book makers who predict winners and charge online find it very lucrative when big players win. This is where match fixing gets in.
In Tanzania match fixing is not so wide spread but it has been around. Since tennis is not our major money spinner, football leads. It is claimed that in the 1980s Simba FC was losing matches and facing relegation ( i.e. being out of the league and losing money), and so smaller teams were asked to “allow” Simba to win.
A Citizen article in August 2015 claimed that in 1987 Tukuyu Stars were approached to let Simba win and a proof of the allegation shows a cutting with Simba at a very embarrassing low position. According to the report, eventually the match between Simba and Tukuyu Stars ended in a 5-5 draw.
Such stories in Tanzania sports are rare.