Friday, 27 January 2012


Last week former heavyweight champion and one of the most famous personalities in the world, the African American, Muhammad Ali celebrated his 70th birthday. For a whole week London’s ITV beamed one hour documentaries of his fights called “Ali Still the Greatest.”
Ali floors Liston in their second match in 1964. Pic from here

Among Ali’s best tournament was 1974  “Rumble in The Jungle” where he faced George Forman and beat him in the eighth round in Kinshasa. The contest was so interesting that it has nurtured two finest films:  “Soul Power”, featuring musicians who performed at the event : James Brown, Miriam Makeba, Luambo Makiadi, Tabu Ley, BB King, Bill Weathers, etc. Dubbed the “the black Woodstock”, by Wikipedia, “Soul Power” was launched in 2008 and has amazing music from especially Miriam Makeba, Mama Africa, who died after performing in Italy, the same year.
Miriam Makeba's "best of" released in 2001

“When We Were Kings” by Leon Gast came out in 1996 and won the Academy Award for best Documentary Feature. “When We Were Kings” discusses many key issues regarding the 1974 fixture, one being how Ali  appreciates the goodness of Africans (no wonder the Congolese chanted  “Ali Bomaye!” meaning Ali Kill Him! In support against Foreman) and also questions the ethics of corruption in the tournament.
Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku wa Zabanga...pic from Top Tenz.Net

It is said President Mobutu Sese Seko offered 10 million dollars to host the bout. At this time Mobutu was considered seventh richest man on earth.  The late despot is a perfect example of corrupt African political leadership.  Unlike owners of hotels, factories, supermarkets and other money spinning business establishments, politicians use the power of popular votes and policies to make cash. Congo was and remains one of the richest countries in the world with her natural wealth especially minerals, calculated at 24 trillion dollars, according to 2009 African Business magazine.
Ndombolo, the highly sucessful Congolese music creation.
Millions of Congolese, meanwhile, remain the poorest in the world haunted by civil war, disease and displacement. A London television producer recently said Congolese people have become so traumatised and forsaken that the only sentiment left for them is music. “It is uncommon for a Congolese to aspire becoming a pilot, engineer or doctor.”

Since Patrice Lumumba (above), Prime Minister Elect was toppled, tortured and coldly assassinated by Mobutu and his friends in 1961, music has silenced his compatriots. No wonder Mobutu used the 1974 boxing fight to strengthen his image. To this day whenever the legendary Ali is mentioned somehow Mobutu is equally acknowledged and redeemed.
  And if we fast forward to recent events we almost see the same pattern  re occurring across the world, i.e. evil dictators using culture and popular occasions to boost their images. On Sunday when Equatorial Guinea beat Libya in their first match of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations, it was said that the players had a lot of morale.
Equatorial Guinea is unknown in the world of football and ranked number 151 by FIFA whereas Tanzania is 137. Somehow Equatorial Guinea managed to co host this year’s competitions alongside Gabon.  It has been reported that the latest discovery of oil and gas deposits is stimulating the country’s economy. Like Nigeria, Sudan, Angola, South Africa and Congo Zaire, Equatorial has joined the class of Africa’s richest nations. Meantime, UNICEF alleges life expectancy is 51; with 22 percent of the population unemployed while one in five children die before they are ready for school. Typical Africa. Natural resources used by the few while the majority live on one meal a day without education, health or decent houses.

In that sort of rhythm, Teodorin Obiang, son of the country’s President offered one million dollars to the national team and 20, 000 dollars for each goal scored. And the red jersey players did score one goal against Libya, which according to press reports, injected “popular support for the team.”
Mr Obiang said the gesture was “personal and not political.”
We can leave that argument and ask ourselves. How about Tanzania? We do not have the riches and bloody hands of despots like Mobutu. But the fact is our leaders are not that poor. What shall happen if they too offer an incentive to our athletes? Since the Africa Cup of nations began in 1956 we have only qualified once in 1980.

Tanzanian Football is improving according to an article by Vijana FM...

However, we have great talent. At the moment more than six players play professionally in overseas teams of USA, Vietnam, Kenya, Denmark, UK, etc. Doesn’t this prove we too have un-tapped and exceptional talent?
In recent matches we have been inconsistent- winning against Burkina Faso, getting a hiding from Senegal (4-0); beating New Zealand’s Oceania Champions  (2-1) and getting beaten by  Morocco (3-1).  Surely a certain type of incentive from our wealthy leaders would “inject something” akin to Equatorial Guinea?
Published in the Citizen- Friday 27th January, 2012.

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