Today, Monday June 7, 2010 is a big day in the history of soccer in Tanzania. Tanzanians in their millions will be watching their national flag bearer, the Taifa Stars, battling the much acclaimed soccer giant, Brazil, the ‘Samba Boys’. There is no doubt that in one and half hours of play Tanzanians would be entertained to unparalleled, a world class soccer match. For those lucky enough to get into the stadium there will be no regret, it is money well spent. Unfortunately, I am not one of them, by choice, of course.
The last time someone dragged me to watch a soccer match in the old national stadium was in 1982, 28 years ago! A child born on that day is now an adult with family of his/her own. After spending more than one and half hours standing balancing myself on pieces of stones and witnessing my home-town team being drubbed by Dar-based team I made myself a promise which I have kept to date. I promised that I will never ever go to a soccer match while in Dar until a new stadium is built.
Fortunately the City now has a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium to a point of attracting a world class football team like Brazil. Still I have never found the courage to go and watch a soccer match in the new stadium. May be I am not a soccer guy despite spending my entire youth and adult life active in sports. Indeed, I consider myself as a ‘gym-rat’ in the sense that I feel like missing something if I cannot find time to visit a gym at least three times a week.
However, I have colleagues and friends who have been to the new stadium a couple of times and the stories I hear about the stadium are quite discomforting to say the least. It seems, once again, we have managed to turn this fine piece of architecture into yet another ‘shamba la bibi’ where the clever few are making living out of it, ‘mradi’ of some sort.
I do understand that the facility is divided into zones and people are supposed to sit where their pockets permit, that is, the more you pay the better placed you are. Unfortunately, I have heard stories to the contrary. For example, one might have coughed a fortune, say 50,000/- (a cool 200,000/- for today’s Taifa Stars-Brazil match!) for a coveted space so as to enjoy the match. Surprisingly, one might end up sitting next to a guy who has just paid 10,000/- or less. Just imagine!
There must be a fundamental flaw either in the design or management of the new stadium. Otherwise, how possible that someone who has just paid 5,000/- sit next to someone who has paid ten times more shillings? How comes that we have been able to spent a fortune, billions of taxpayers’ monies to build the stadium but not being able to invest in technology costing a fraction of the investment? How is it possible for people to ‘manufacture’ their own tickets and pass them for genuine ones in a stadium with numbered seating arrangement?
It is such stories that have kept me out of the new stadium, at least for now. My little experience tells me that all these are uncalled for developments. We have the resources and expertise that can keep people where they belong. If the situation is left unattended we will end up a situation where someone will have paid 100,000/- only to find out that he/she has no place to sit to enjoy the game.
Lastly, nations undertake investments in expensive soccer stadiums not so much as for people to go and watch 22 grown-ups running around battling for the possession of a spherical object made from skin of some dead animal. If anything these are supposed to be economic investments which, if well planned and executed, are supposed to revitalize surrounding communities raising their profile and economic welfare. I am not sure if one can say the same about our new national stadium. Stories of vandalism, people uprooting wash basins and electrical installations are sad indeed. It is a high time that we put in place proper mechanisms for managing such state of the art facility.