Today is a make or break day for those seeking various leadership posts in the Tanzania Olympic Committee (TOC), as stakeholders appear all set to cast their votes in what is billed as the mother of all sports elections.
The importance of today’s TOC elections is that this is a supreme sports body under which all other sports organizations in the country are supposed to work.
Such sports organizations include, among others, Athletics Tanzania (AT), the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF), Chaneta, etc.
A number of posts are out for grabs, although most observers’ eyes are today expected to be directed at the powerful Secretary General post which was until recently held by former 1500m world record holder and Olympic silver medalist Filbert Bayi.
As had been widely expected, Bayi would be seeking re-election to the same post.
However, the man who gave the world the front running style would this time around have to make a fight of his life against two equally strong candidates, Commonwealth marathon gold medalist JumaIkangaa and the former Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) Secretary General, Frederick Mwakalebela.
What makes the battle for the post of secretary general both interesting and exciting is the fact that all the three candidates have in the past held posts that are more or less similar in prestige and power to the TOC post.
For instance, Ikangaa is former Secretary General of AT and Mwakalebela was until a few years ago TFF Secretary General.
During his tenure, Bayi tried his level best to bring a modicum of organization in the TOC much as the country failed to produce winners in major international sports tournaments that include the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, the All Africa Games and continental soccer tournaments.
The same thing could be said about Ikangaa during his tenure at the AT.
He tried his level best, given the hostile environment and circumstances he operated in, what with the government of the day, of all institutions in the country, banning sports competitions in schools!
Perhaps the man who is carrying a more attractive record is Mwakalebela, since, while at the secretary general saddle, soccer revolved around two tournaments, the premier league and the first division league.
And by the time his time was up, he left behind at the national level U-17 and U-20 in soccer and Taifa Cup tournament which had long been left to die by past soccer administrations.
It is, however, interesting to note that after his departure from the TFF offices, the Taifa Cup tournament has gone back to where it had earlier been consigned to, namely the graveyard!
Other developments that are associated with Mwakalebela include the rise in sponsorship in the TFF.
When Mwakalebela was appointed secretary general, the Tanzanian soccer world had only Vodacom as its main sponsor in the premier league.
However, immediately he got into the organization, he went to work, bringing in more sponsors such as the NMB, Serengeti Breweries, Tanzania Breweries Limited, Mohamed Enterprises, Azam through Uhai, the NSSF and Coca Cola which would throw its weight behind the youth national soccer tournament.
What is more, it was during his tenure that the mobile phone company increased its sponsorship in the premier league from 300m/- to 630m/-.
Others sponsors with their financial contributions in brackets are NMB (400m/-), (TBL800m/-), Serengeti Breweries (1.2bn/-), Azam through Uhai (16m/-), Mohamed Enterprises Limited (METL) (100m/-) and NSSF (100m/-).
Again it was during Mwakalebela’s tenure at the TFF that the Karume Memorial Centre received a facelift through the installation of a tartan pitch.
Of course such impressive infrastracturaldevelopments which took place under Mwakalebela’s watch cannot be wholly attributed to his efforts.
There were also other players in the TFF whose contribution helped the burly secretary general in realizing such successes.
Yet the indisputable fact remains, and that is, such developments took place when Mwakalebela was in charge.
However, outside such impressive developments, Mwakalebela’s reign as the deputy chief executive officer (after the TFF President, LeodgarTenga) failed to bring silverware for Tanzania and its soccer mad-fans!
And as already noted, the same thing could be said about the reigns of Bayi and Ikangaa at the TOC and AT, respectively.
The three candidates just like others in the pack, will today be expected to make their last rally for the post they are vying for when they speak to the electorate before the dice is finally cast.
And the electorate would be expected to listen to the three men very carefully on what each of them plans to do if elected.
Tanzania’s successive massive failures in international sports competitions have for years revolved around the country’s failure to organize sports from grassroots level.
As already noted elsewhere, the foregoing problem was compounded, during the third phase administration of President Benjamin Mkapa, when it decided to ban sports competitions in schools!
Therefore whoever wants to sway votes in his favour in today’s TOC elections will certainly have to convince the electorate on his ability to organize sports at grassroots level.
Equally important, he will have to explain to the electorate why he thinks he has what it takes to push other sports associations and organizations to work on their respective sports men and women.
In a nutshell, he will have to convince the electorate that he has what it takes to turn around the country’s sports fortunes and that is certainly not going to be easy for any of the three candidates given their sports stature and their past track records in the Tanzanian world of sports.
But much as the election of the TOC secretary general is going to be a tough exercise, yet the electorate has the historic opportunity of giving Tanzania’s sports success starved fans a reason to smile by the end of the day today.
This election just like past sports elections has been marred by claims by some embattled candidates of some fellow candidates using the power of their purses in order to bring about their success in the election.