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3 reasons why Tanzania is not popular in sports

why Tanzania is not popular in sports
Tanzania Football team. Photo/How They Play
  • Hypothetically speaking, football is the most popular sport in Tanzania
  • But nothing much comes from other sectors of sports such as rugby and netball
  • Politics plays a huge role in a country’s sports sector

East Africa is a gem when it comes to tourism and commerce. But, a hard riddle to make out is why Tanzania is not popular in sports.

You would assume that Tanzania would be as big and commanding as her neighbours Kenya and Uganda, but that’s not the case.

You will hardly hear anything about sports in this Swahili nation, yet, it has a population capable of flying its flag in sports. So, we dig deep to find out the reason behind all this.


Hypothetically speaking, football is the most popular sport in Tanzania. The country’s national team is Taifa Stars. Mbwana Samatta is one of the most popular soccer players of his time in this East African country.

But, there are many local leagues such as:

  • Azam FC
  • Ihef
  • Namungo
  • Coastal Union
  • KMC
  • Mbeya City
  • Dodoma Jiji
  • Kagera Sugar
  • Yanga
why Tanzania is not popular in sports

Tanzania football. Photo/Sport Africa


As much as you ponder why Tanzania is not popular in sports, football takes it home, although not past a regional level. Netball, volleyball, a little bit of badminton and basketball also try to get a spot.

Nevertheless, sporting dynamics are not so much in favour of other popular sports such as rugby, athletics, and tennis. So, what hurdles do Tanzania face when expanding its sporting reputation?


The obvious truth is that sports and politics do not and should not mix. For this reason, many nations avoid this collision, but some cannot resist combining them, either on purpose or by accident.

A perfect answer to why Tanzania is not popular in sports is largely because of politicking. In this breath, modern Olympic Games are devoid of political overtones. Many African countries try to remove the weight of the past from their deliberations on whether or not to participate.

However, when politics take centre stage, it gets messy. According to Binzi Mwakajole, a retired immigration officer and former player for Pamba FC, things changed in Tanzania.

He tells Tanzania Sports that politics played second fiddle to sports back in the day, and the results were exemplary.

As is the case every four years, Tanzanian athletes led by Bayi and Nyambui were left with a bitter taste in their mouths when they were not allowed to compete in the Olympics.

Sports surveys reveal a political influence that is too great to be ignored in the day-to-day operations of the country’s sports. This influence explains why Tanzania is not popular in sports.


Secondly, a certain degree of selfishness paints a picture of why Tanzanian sports are on a downward spiral.

One particularly telling example is the country’s once-famous sports fields, which date back to Tanganyika’s heyday before independence.

Sports and occasional social gatherings would be held in these spaces. Today, these parks and playgrounds that once belonged to the government and local governments are now private property.

The ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), today claims ownership of one of these spaces. This is all along while the ruling party and its apparatchiks look down on its mandate to manage and administrate such government property.

Such as it is, the famous Tanganyika public land is private property. It is now used for political rallies, paramilitary training for the party’s youth wing, and other purposes as the party see it fit.

Never at any one time did a football match go down here yet; that was the intended purpose. This blatant disregard of state operatives tells more why Tanzania is not popular in sports.

why Tanzania is not popular in sports

Tanzania Squad. Photo/Tanzania Sports


Stadium administration is just one aspect of the modern sports industry that is increasingly under the control of political operatives.

Incidentally, politicians lack a clear sports vision. They unilaterally cancel sporting events whenever they see fit. To them, sports is only relevant when it serves their political interests.

For example, when the national team has a major international assignment, they flock in droves for optics.


After successfully hosting the ICC Cricket League Division 4 in 2008, cricket is rising in Tanzania. The national team lifted a win then, but it is also dogged by bureaucratic challenges from the political class.

Despite all this, it would be a different story to tell other than why Tanzania is not popular in sports.

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, but an outgoing sports writer with focus on tennis, athletics, football, motorsports and NBA.

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