TBF traditionalist polls of office bearers: Sponsorships or habits?

04Jan 2022
Correspondent
The Guardian
TBF traditionalist polls of office bearers: Sponsorships or habits?

REGIONAL officials of the Tanzania Basketball Federation (TBF) were lately holding an election of office bearers, which appeared to be of another age concerning the polls to choose leaders of the soccer counterpart federation, for the past 20 years more or less.

Unguja women's basketball squad's forward, Caren Anderson, slots in a point when her side battled it out in last year's national basketball tournament, known as the 'CRDB Bank Taifa Cup', which was played at Chinangali courts in Dodoma.

There were polls for the president of the federation, vice-president, secretary-general, assistant secretary, and treasurer, alongside executive committee members, a format that Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) abandoned 20 years ago or earlier.

But it still works for basketball and several other federations, which means for some reason there is no need for change.

Instead of seeking to find out why there is no need for change, as the basketball leadership structure used to be ‘normal’ until soccer changed its format, maybe the real issue is why soccer changed its format – and when the reasons are taken into account – when other federations may alter their structures too.

The matter wasn’t being raised by pundits discussing the TBF polls, merely inviting remarks from outgoing president, Phares Magessa, who acknowledged defeat and promised cooperation.

That again wasn’t the situation in the old Tanzania Football Association (FAT) as its elections were cut-throat, nasty theatrics.

Even those without habitual monitoring of basketball events might in large numbers already have heard of Magesa as a veteran basketball leader, in which case his departure from the helm is something of a milestone.

Still, the polls were outwardly peaceful and without any disputes or haggling, and this needs to be explained, and it is in this context that the issue of sponsorships comes up, that there isn’t so much money that TBF leaders oversee, and not much commotion comes up in getting leaders.

It also implies that the game is still amateur, the fan base is scattered, and seeks out one another collegially.

It thus underlines an impression that the game is conducted in amateurish enthusiasm, which extends to leadership in the sense of some prominent fans of the game picked to lead, with no visible large sums of money that attract organized contention for leadership, as in political elections.

Thus TFF has removed a model of leadership that shares out executive power for the concentration of power in the president so that no doubt is elected to lead, not a collegial team as in amateur sports.

The point is that when decisions involving the use of cash are momentous to participants in a sport collegial leadership must end.

Basketball still has time before it scales the ladder of amateur sports and collegial leadership to more professional basketball and greater flows of money into the game, which leads to concentration of power and bitter wrangling in organizing periodic elections.

These skirmishes often tarnish the game before the eyes of the public, but they are equally indispensable in that it takes to make a game popular, that earning is part of what it takes to make it popular, so attracting good players requires money, as well as hiring technical and administrative staff. Not much of this is taking place in basketball but at a voluntary level.

Teams still tend to be tied to either the workplace or residential areas, with declines in the standing of one team or another but the dominant names have remained over the years, Oilers, Pazi, University of Dar es Salaam, to cite the more accessible to the wider public.

The game has also attracted a few powerful individuals among youths of past decades, the most noticeable being former President, Jakaya Kikwete, but in his social spare time, he devotes his energies not to basketball but soccer.

He is a powerhouse at Young Africans SC, popularly known as 'Yanga', and son Ridhiwani was becoming a sort of club elder, and now rubs shoulders with big businessmen to make things work.

Not so much like in the old skirmishes but professional organization.

What will enable basketball to become professional, and indeed after how many decades, is anyone’s guess.

Most sports or games will unavoidably remain amateur as they don’t have the fan base to attract money, players, and competition at high levels, as national competitions are merely a city affair, and largely unremarkable to the breadth of the public.

It is like a billionaire wedding ceremony – attracts thousands of people but it is socially unremarkable, just a largely private affair.

It is something that basketball must live with, not far from what in golf is known as a handicap - having its good and negative aspects.

So plaudits need to be sounded out to the basketball fraternity for organizing successful polls and showing what it is to be enthusiastic about sports without putting forward the money.

The trouble is that this isn’t an ethical capacity ingrained in basketball per se as different from other sports (as some pundits would say if basketball was an organized society) but it arises from the fact that the money isn’t there in the first place.

With a changing landscape and maybe private basketball grounds in the future, some of that could come around with some foreign companies starting to sponsor the game. It is still early in the day.