22 December 2017

Tanzania: Athletes Fight On Against Sportsmanship Woes

TAMIRAT Tola of Ethiopia poses with his silver medal, Geoffrey Kipkorir Kirui of Kenya with the gold medal and Alphonce Felix Simbu of Tanzania proudly displaying the bronze medal for the Men's Marathon, during the 16th IAAF World Athletics Championships London 2017 at the London Stadium on August 6, 2017 in United Kingdom.

THE increasing number of road and crosscountry races in 2017 has left the athletics governing body (AT) in awe, claiming it as a new dawn. With this increase, as noted by AT Secretary General, Wilhelm Gidabuday, came improved cash- prize packages, which was recorded in many events, a trend AT predicts to make 2018 more appealing in terms of sportsmanship.

To AT, the promising changes are viewed as a good response to the nationwide campaign to sensitize athletes to win medals in the Tokyo Olympic Games slated for 2020, four decades after Filbert Bayi and Suleiman Nyambui won the country's only silver medals in Moscow games.

AT appreciates Alphonce Simbu who finished fifth in Rio de Janeiro Games, since he has been an inspirational figure in the medal seeking campaign and is so far the most successful runner for the country at the global level.

Simbu, who went on to win bronze in the IAAF World Athletics Championship in London a few months after winning gold in Beijing Marathon, double rewarded the athletics fraternity when his feat lured DSTv to back him and many athletic events staged by AT. The arrival of DSTv brings in a good lesson that all sports disciplines need to learn from.

Corporate, private or and government firms' support has been vital in pushing development of all sports, and sports officials or sports governing bodies must understand what made firms like DSTv opt to support Simbu and AT operations. Its obvious Simbu became a public figure after a stunning but highly motivating performance in Rio de Janeiro, and confirmed his ability by winning the Beijing Marathon and IAAF London race later on.

From what we learnt in athletics, 2017 ends with a need for general improvement in sportsmanship which brings a closer cooperation among sportsmen and women, corporate firms and sports bodies. It's a huge public appeal that leads the way now. The public appeal has helped Tanzania football giants win lucrative sponsorship from big firms such as Tanzania Breweries and presently SportsPesa.

Firms opt to support the teams because of their huge fan base and public attention. Mbeya City, the club that hit headlines soon after being promoted to topflight league a few years ago, impressed many firms who decided to back the team. Their climb to success threatened the reign of Tanzania Prisons, a team which was previously considered as the top club from Mbeya and the Southern Highlands.

Today when Mbeya City and Prisons play, the match constitutes what is now popularly known as the 'Mbeya Derby' and the attendance is usually very rewarding, almost similar to the Dar es Salaam derby where traditional rivals, Simba and Young Africans lock horns.

Before the Mbeya derby, there was a self promoted Tanga derby that pitted rivals African Sports and Coastal Union, which still exists up to now although the two teams succumbed to relegation last season.

All these, promotion, publicity and sponsorship are vital elements in sports development, and are also vital in pushing sports towards professionalism since they can also become source of athletes' income and employment.

AT, as the organizer of events that don't have gate collections, should understand that athletic events, if well promoted to become a sport with a huge appeal, can lure more spectators and acquire funds to run its operations.

Most often than not only football matches and professional boxing bouts benefit from gate collections while the rest are staged free of charge. Gidabuday and his team mates who came to power after an election on November 27, 2016, must work hard to ensure athletics win huge public attention that will make the sport reach a broad spectrum.

AT who have introduced cash prize system for the winners of cross country races as a means of boosting the morale of the runners, can manage to generate cash prizes for winners without seeking a sponsor's backing.

The 6m/-which was spent to reward the best performers of the cross country in the women's 8km, 6km Junior and men and women 10km disciplines could easily be acquired if the event was attended by only 6,000 people who pay just 1,000/- per head. Go 2017 with a promising run towards professionalism, come 2018 with a complete maturity in professionalism.

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