by Philip Richards
The London Marathon is a much loved and anticipated event on the UK athletics calendar which attracts top athletes from around the world, but the upcoming 2017 event in April could see Tanzania’s top runner missing. At the time of going to press, Alphonce Simbu has days left to obtain a UK visa which, as reported by The Citizen, has been left too late because of training commitments. An urgent application is apparently being made via South Africa. Simbu won the Mumbai Marathon earlier this year, so let us hope that the wheels of inter-country cooperation work in his favour, and that we see him hitting London’s roads this year.
[STOP PRESS – Alphonce was able to compete and finished in 5th place behind three Kenyans and an Ethiopian runner]
Hilal Hemed Hilal, Tanzania’s top male swimmer, has been recognised for his success and development by being awarded a scholarship by FINA (swimming’s world governing body) to Thailand for a year. Hilal, who performed well at the Rio Olympics in 2016 by winning one of the heats of the 50m freestyle, will seek an additional year at the Thai camp if he posts improvements during his initial stay (The Citizen reports). As swimming infrastructure in Tanzania needs investment to comply with global standards, many promising swimmers are forced to seek scholarships overseas at educational colleges (such as Saint Felix School in Southwold, UK where several Tanzanian swimmers study) but this is the first time that a Tanzanian has been awarded a scholarship by FINA.
Taifa Stars, the national team, recently posted two wins in friendly matches against Botswana (2-0) and Burundi (2-1) which must be encouraging for the new coach Salum Mayanga who replaced Charles Boniface Mkwasa at the helm earlier this year after failing to qualify for any major tournaments. These wins may have helped move the team slightly up the FIFA rankings to 135th, but there is some way to go before the position of 65th in 1995 is equalled or surpassed. The focus is now on preparing for the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Kenya, and the main 2019 African Nations Cup (AFCON) in 2019 in Cameroon. The first game for the CHAN tournament is against Rwanda in July. For the 2019 AFCON tournament, the team has been drawn in qualifying Group L with Uganda, Cape Verde and Lesotho.