Heading to the Yanga vs. Mamelodi CAF Game, Our Leaders’ Statements Will Trip Us Up

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The Minister of Culture, Arts and Sports, Hon. Dr. Damas Ndumbaro has sparked a controversial debate that we never thought we will ever have but now we are sucked into it, and we need to dabble into it albeit begrudgingly. The learned minister broached a subject on loyalty citing Young Africans S.C (Yanga)  versus Mamelodi Sundowns F.C of South Africa match attendees should wear Yanga jerseys and those who will wear Mamelodi jerseys will not be allowed in the Benjamin Mkapa stadium!

Behind his illegal fiat there is a concocted definition of what loyalty is and what is not. This discourse dissects the real meaning of loyalty and why the minister is espousing an artifice, and should abandon it in a huff!

We learn that Africa is one and all humanity is equal, and one should have thought that Mamelodi Sundowns F.C being an African soccer team will shut down the issue of discriminating against African sides but regrettably that is not the case here. The founding father of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Kamabarage Nyerere, once said Africa is not free until all Africans are free even here our learned minister seems not to have understood Nyerere’s vision.

READ RELATED: Sports and Politics in Tanzania: Interdependent Allies or Distant Relations?

Claiming he is rooting for Yanga is an expression of loyalty is in its own advancing a specious cause. Yanga and Mamelodi are all African teams and discriminating one from the other is commiting a colossal error of judgment. I say so because there is no country called Tanzania as much as there is no country called South Africa because it is the colonial heritage that we need to dismantle.

European elites are the ones who set the African boundaries to suit their own imperial ambitions, and any sober African politician will be the first to desist from adhering to colonial interests camouflaged as agitating for spurious loyalty.

If there is any loyalty the first and foremost is to the African continent but to a tiny Tanzania is really defending neocolonial aspirations, which is sad. One reason we are poor apart from our internal challenges are colonial boundaries that constrain African determination to self governance. Part of the school of thought the learned minister embraces is accepting colonial demarcations of Africa as divinely which are not.

We repeat those territorial limitations are man-made but not godly imposed. Ndumbaro too is a victim of western education that has over years indoctrinated us with esteeming territorial tethers imposed by colonial powers whose aims and purposes is total subjugation of African collective aspirations.

Unwittingly, Hon. Dr. Ndumbaro is ingraining into our minds South Africa and the rest of African countries are not Tanzanians and should be shunned. Paradoxically, sports’ chief objective is to melt cultural, religious, racial, gender, and nationality differences. Sports main artillery is to bring all people together, not to act as a springboard for dividing people into shards of xenophobia of which the minister is clamouring for!

Of more telling is the freedom of expression that sports is its best advocate. In sports, we express our feelings particularly those that are what we call “buried” ones. We release thoughts hidden in our hearts to come out. It is really venting our feelings and breathing the air of freedom that the minister is hellbent to constipate! When we let them out we feel relaxed and clutch ownership to our values.

I happen to be a Yanga die hard fan but I will also defend the rights of non Yanga fans who want us eliminated by Mamelodi. There are many reasons why fans may prefer even their team to lose. I will cite some few grounds to support this assertion. There may be a leadership crisis in a club or rampant misuse of club funds or even players are not well remunerated or the club leadership has sold key players and did little to replenish the squad.

Some fans may pray for bad pitch results to make a point the club is heading in a wrong direction. The club leadership will dismiss such advocacy as sabotage but really is a quest to have a genuine discussion where the club is heading to.

Others may love Mamelodi Sundowns because of the way the club is run or the way they play, and such fans also, need to express their views. The minister ought to be the last person to truncate such lively sceneries on the pitch fever. Just to cite a past example, in 1993 Simba played in the African winners Cup final in Dar es Salaam, and lost two nil after Boli Zozo scored both goals for Stella Abidjan.

Some fans shouted “…..kwa kweli uzalendo umetushinda.” What these adoring fans were saying was they could not overlook such a world class performance by the Ivorian Coast team that won the continental tournament.

ALSO READ: Simba Vs Yanga: More Than Just a Game, It’s a Billion-Shilling Business Through Azam TV.

Sports should be about celebrating quality not advancing parochial political goals. I understand where the minister is coming from. To him, a win for Yanga translates to a win to the rulers of the day. That in its own is not commiting a transgression but imposing into adoring fans is inherently narcissistic. The state has better business to conduct and forcing fans to express fake loyalty is not one of them.

Asking fans to support Yanga against their will amounts to teaching them to be hypocritical which is not acceptable. There is no loyalty in hypocrisy for obvious reasons I restrain myself to dilate further.

Of more significance is what criterion the appointer normally apply to pick cabinet ministers because Ndumbaru looks like he wishes he was elsewhere and his appointment is manpower misallocation. He could serve us better in other portfolios but the ministry of sports we need someone who understands the issues governing it.

We need a sensitive person to shepherd it. This raises a more disturbing question of whether the Parliament is the best place to headhunt for the cabinet ministers. Looks like it constrains the appointer from a wide latitude to get the services of those who have invested all their careers in the sports as players or coaches or in sports management. Ndumbaro may have inklings in sports management but blithely he is not indispensable.

I am urging the minister to retract his misplaced order and let the game flow as it should. We love to see fans releasing their steam on the match day without the interjection from politicians whose calculus is defined by the 2025 elections, but nothing else. As they seek another term in office, that inclination should not deter us from enjoying the game the majority of us dearly crave: soccer.

Having Tanzanian fans supporting both Yanga and Mamelodi of Mandela land should be a reason for optimism towards African cosmopolitanism rather than its pessimism. Former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, memorable speech needs to be of guidance in this debate when he reaffirmed his staunch pride of being an African son first and foremost, we have no reason to negate such valuable and wise reality. Not now, not ever!

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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