The President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, paid a visit to the Home of FIFA on 23 January, taking time out of his busy schedule to meet and discuss key issues with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter.
“I thanked President Blatter warmly for his invitation to FIFA headquarters, the home of the game that we all love," the Tanzanian politician told FIFA.com. "And I also complimented him on the football development work that FIFA has carried out since he took up his post. The sport has made huge progress in that area."
Tanzania, which emerged from the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar on 26 April 1964, is bordered by Uganda and Kenya to the north, Burundi, Rwanda and Congo DR to the west, Zambia and Malawi to the south-east, and Mozambique to the south.
I’m especially appreciative of the interest that President Blatter has shown in Africa. It’s really due to his efforts that we now send five teams to the World Cup, and that the last tournament, in 2010, took place on African soil.
The developing country, which boasts a total surface area of over 945,000 km2 and more than 43 million inhabitants, is not generally regarded as a major footballing nation, as demonstrated by their 124th placing on the January FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, but the sport is still extremely popular with Tanzanians.
President Kikwete, who was elected in December 2005, said: “Tanzania has received considerable support from FIFA for many years and I hope that that will continue, particularly so that all our young boys and girls can be introduced to the game. Unfortunately, at the moment we’re struggling to reach the upper echelons of world football, but we just need to be patient – success will come, I’m confident of that."
The Taifa Stars take on Morocco in March in a 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifier, a Group C clash that could go a long way to deciding whether the team progresses any further in the competition. A former basketball player and head of the Tanzania Basketball Federation, President Kikwete remains a big fan of the world’s most popular sport.
He said: “I played basketball and football, but I was definitely more suited to basketball, a sport in which I showed quite a bit of talent. That’s why I was encouraged to keep up with it rather than football, which I left to those who were better than me. I think I made the right choice!”
The African head of state is also keen to highlight FIFA’s unwavering commitment to helping football to flourish in Africa: “I’m especially appreciative of the interest that President Blatter has shown in Africa. It’s really due to his efforts that we now send five teams to the World Cup, and that the last tournament, in 2010, took place on African soil."
Stepping back to look at the wider picture, the Tanzanian President, who has played a key role in bringing peace back to the African Great Lakes region, particularly in Burundi and Congo DR, and in rebuilding and integrating East Africa, believes in football’s power to bring people together.
“Football can make a real contribution to peace, via different means," he said. "Even when countries are at war, people play football. And nations who are not on friendly terms, politically or diplomatically speaking, often find themselves playing each other on the football pitch, and there are never any problems."