Tanzania: Rio Olympic Exit, Boxing Suffers

Boxinghas suffered yet another damaging blow. After so hard work, so much hope and anxiety to prove their worth, Tanzania's boxers won't go to the Rio Olympic Games! Olympic Games are scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro in August this year.

However, Tanzania's boxing team won't attend them for lack of funds to take the squad there. "It has hurt the boxers," says the Boxing Federation of Tanzania Secretary General, Makore Mashaga.

As he received the Queen's baton relay at the State House in Dar es Salaam recently, former President Jakaya Kikwete cautioned athletes against parading excuses and advised them to strive to reap medals.

Accordingly, the boxers in the national team strove well to do honour for their country at the forthcoming Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil. They trained hard for it and appealed to boxing lovers, stakeholders and the government to enable them to achieve that dream.

But all their pleas and efforts for a positive result have come to naught. So heart-breaking for the eager young nation's sportsmen! Signs of the disappointment began flashing earlier in the year and even before that.

The Boxing Federation of Tanzania failed to send a team to compete at the Africa Olympic qualifiers in Cameroon, due to financial hardships. The body needed over 40m/- to cover expenses of eight boxers but their efforts to seek support from various public and private institutions failed to pay off. The amount is but a petty sum in comparison to what other athletic groups get from various sports organisations and other stakeholders.

Owing to the financial difficulty, BFT was forced to call off the boxing team's trip to Cameroon, a move that dealt a damaging blow to the boxers hoping to feature in Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games scheduled for August this year.

After that failure BFT, according to reports, focused on competing in the AIBA World Olympic Qualifiers scheduled to take place in Baku, Azerbaijan, the body's Secretary General, Makore Mashaga, said they struggled for quite some time to find cash to enable them to travel to Baku, but failed.

The two more Olympics qualifying event - the June Baku contests, a month before the Olympics scheduled for June 14 through 28 - and Sofia games both took place without Tanzanian boxers. So, Tanzania's amateur boxers lost their chance to grab tickets for this year's Olympics Games and are officially out of the Rio contests, all because of the miss of the Baku and Sofia events. As things now stand, only Athletics Tanzania (AT) and Tanzania Swimming Association (TSA) are assured of a place in the Rio Games so far.

The truth, however, is that the nation could have increased its chances of standing tall in Rio if it had more athletic squads there. In other words, our nation wants glory at huge international contests without planting good enough international seeds of the game! Tanzania competed at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, United Kingdom, from July 27 to August 12.

This was the nation's 12th appearance at the Olympics. However, the nation did not attend the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada, because of African boycott of the games. In the previous event, the Tanzanian Olympic Committee (TOC) sent the nation's smallest delegation ever to the Games since 2000. As things stand though, Tanzanian boxers are now out of the Olympic Games -- out until the next time around! That is nothing to laugh about or anything to clap for, because in the light of would-be losses at the Games, we cannot say we are better off without attending the Games.

The failure to participate at the Olympics has damaged both the boxers' psyche and their spirit. "It has hurt me a lot, says Selemani Kidunda, the nation's light welter weight champion. "I do not know where boxing is going."

We should try to understand what failure to send boxers to the Olympics in Rio next month means to the nation's youths. While the government is known to be working hard to promote sports in the country, evidently it is doing so only in some sports and is, allegedly, overtly biased for field and track events but again noticeably disinclined to promote boxing.

Makore says it is not so much a matter of funds shortage as it is the fact that some people concerned with the sport are avoiding their responsibility.

"We tried everywhere, companies, organisations and even the government, but got no help," he explains. Sports are a youths' means to earn a livelihood and a good guard for them against criminal activities as it is a preoccupation against slipping into criminal act. While some have talents for field and track events, others like boxing, games such as swimming and hope to get some cash or material possession -- from those sports.

Professional boxing is now allowed at the Olympics, increasing medals potential for nations with advanced professional pugilism. It also means more employment opportunity for their youth. Tanzania, with many youths hungering for such athletic opportunities, ought to take advantage of the prospect and make the most of them.

Our nation has performed impressively in professional boxing so far. However, given the government's and sports stakeholders' stance towards boxing, the chance to the Olympics professional boxing in the country is doubtful.

Kenya, our East African neighbour and the principal boxing opponent, is sending ten amateur boxers to the Rio Olympics. It is sad and disheartening to hear that a nation's sports chief rival is grooming a team into formidable fighters while all we can do is train our boxing team but cancel their participation in a global contest at the last hour. Nothing so discourages athletes like disappointment.

Boxers have had little encouragement, if any at all, by way of availing for them participation in international contests. At most, boxing lovers allege, the sports authorities look for the slightest excuse to withdraw boxers from such a contest.

There can be no stronger way of expressing less love for the sport than that. However, the last thing we lose is hope. Boxers still have hope. Now we have a new government and a new minister for sports and athletics generally.

Of all people, boxers in the country expect Minister Nape Nnauye can develop that hope into a glorious achievement of the nation's honour. It won't be a smooth sailing. Commitment is necessary.

Source: Tanzania Daily News