The other day the Arusha authorities, led by the youthful regional commissioner Gambo, decided to establish the Arusha United Football Club from the ashes of the Oljoro National Service Club. The new club is apparently geared at reviving the game in Arusha, once a powerful football giant.
This follows re-organisation of all National Service teams, and the downfall of the long suffering Arusha Football Club, apparently due to management and financial problems.
Those of us who are ‘wahengas’ do recall the golden days when Arusha had such formidable teams including the former Jumuiya Football Club, which was run by the previous East African Community. The other high-flying teams in those days were General Tyre, Phillips, Boma, Olmotonyi and many others including, the then young JKT Oljoro team.
I happen to have featured in the Oljoro team, in the mid 70s, when I was under compulsory service at the camp. To be more precise I was an agile goalie for the team. I was also inspired by the fact that footballers at the camp were mostly exempted from such labourious activities like digging trenches, civil building and hoeing our large farms.
We had a wonderful team, including such eminent goalies; Jengo and Wikedzi; defense players Kinanda Junior, Ngereza, Kanyamala and Mlebusi, and forwards like Faya, Mwaipopo and Shoni - all compulsory national servicemen.
Our commanders at the camp were very proud of us and decided that we take part in the then Arusha Regional Football Club Championship. Naturally we clobbered one team after another at the Sheikh Amri Abeid Stadium, and other pitches in Arusha.
Our main cheerleader was one Christopher Kakobe, now the prominent Askofu Kakobe. He, also a serviceman at Oljoro, was an amazing supporter of our team.
I remember times when he alone could silence the hundreds of fans of an opposing team at the Abeid Stadium. No wonder the authorities made it a must for Kakobe to travel with the team.
In this major regional tournament, we indeed excelled and reached the finals. The final game would take place at the Abeid Stadium. Our commanders were ecstatic knowing that, on winning the trophy, the camp would, for the first time, enter the name of Oljoro Camp, in the annals of football glory in Arusha.
The stadium was full and all our commanders came, though only a few servicemen made it due to transport problems. We were playing against the previous year’s champions, the General Tyre.
We played our hearts out and the half time score was 1-0 in our favour after Shoni had sent a sizzling shot into our opponent’s goal. Kakobe’s very lively support got a boost from the many fans of the other teams which had already been knocked out.
However things did not go well in the second half when a few minutes after kickoff we allowed a goal from a header after a corner kick.
As the minutes ticked by, and everybody believing that the match would go into extra time, in the 90th minute, our opponents scored the second goal and the winner. To say the least we were devastated. But I believe our commanders were much worse.
Actually we should have known that things were not normal when, during the ceremony to award the winners and us, our team manager, one sporting commander, and members of his group were nowhere to be seen.
It was only when we were about to leave that we also noticed that our long-base Isuzu open lorry, we were using, was also nowhere to be seen.
That is when some fans informed us that our commanders had left with all transport including the lorry in a huff believing that we had ‘sold’ the match. This was also on account that we were on the verge of finishing our compulsory national service stint after which were to go and join further studies at higher educational institutions including universities and other colleges locally and abroad. A win would have forced us to stay for another month for the zonal tournament.
Some Arusha-based team sympathizers and supporters managed to give us food and marshal transport to ferry us back to our camp, some 15 or so kilometers south-east of Arusha.
I can however assure all readers of this third-rate column that we did not a ‘sell’ that match. We lost it fair and square!