Oh! How I Wish the Same Would Happen Here
by lute wa lutengano
I have always been asked this question as to why I do not attend football matches in Arusha. I always respond by telling them to define what they mean because not only do I attend the Wazee Football Club, but I actually participate by playing the ball. That is when they clarify that the matches they are talking about are those of the Tanzanian Premier League. AOh those! No! I do not attend them whether they are those involving the big guns B Simba and Young Africans B or not, I do not,@ I usually reply.
You do not have to be a philosopher to understand why. Almost all football lovers in Tanzania know the alarmingly falling standards of the popular game in the country. Tanzania is always on the losing end whenever it fields its so-called national team. The same involves club representation at continental or regional level. So why watch something horribly bad and disappointing? You want to watch football? Watch the European Cup or the English Premier League, or even the Latin American one B but in the confines of your sitting room on TV.
Actually the last time I watched a football match, of that level, was way back in the mid 70s. That was a match between the Ghanaian Asante Kotoko and our Young Africans at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam. Needless to say we went on to lose to the West Africans.
But No! That was not the last international match I had watched live. Sometimes in the early 90s, I watched not only one match but about six of them in four different days in Marrakesh, a city in Morocco. Now one will be tempted to ask, what were you doing there? But that is another story all together.
The whole episode began because of boredom. I and a Tanzania colleague were staying at one of biggest international conference hotels in the city. For one reason or another we found ourselves free every afternoon for a whole week. Coincidentally during the very week there was a Pan Arab Football Club Championship tournament in the city=s stadium B if I am not mistaken it was called Prince Mohamed Stadium. About ten or so clubs from Arab countries were competing in the tournament.
The second afternoon we decided to attend some of the matches at the stadium. The direction to the stadium was confusing because of our English and Swahili language barrier B the Moroccans are fluent in Arabic or Berber and French. However, we simply followed the mass of people moving towards the direction which we thought was where the stadium was located.
At one corner of the wide road we saw that everyone was going through some huge wide open gates. We followed suit only to realise that we had entered the stadium and actually on the VIP section. We got worried. However we were warmly welcome. Presumably we were mistaken for some senior Government officials from one of the participating teams.
Before the match began, there was a standing ovation as a group of elderly Arab men in their traditional flowing robes escorted a young man clad in a western suit into the stadium. The delegation came and sat a few rows from where we were. Actually some of the members of the delegation even shook our hands. We later came to learn that this was Prince Mohamed, the son of the then King Hassan of Morocco. And in his honour, all Marrakeshians were offered free entry to all the matches.
This arrangement went on for the next four days we were in Marrakesh. Every time we attended the matches B naturally without paying anything B we sat at our usual VIP corner. We were even treated to some fresh juice and some very sweet nuts and dates. We became popular faces at the stadium B two black faces among a sea of Arabs. We even chose our favourite team. I believe it was a team called Kabylie, from Casablanca. Reason: It had more black faces in its ranks.
To cut the whole story short, our Kabylie team won the tournament, and that evening Marrakesh suddenly became one big carnival city. At the hotel I was even offered a bottle of beer by an Arab celebrating >our= victory. Oh! How I wish the same would happen in Tanzania!