Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Letter From Butiama The Global Village

This is one of numerous articles I wrote for the Sunday News (Tanzania) column "Letter from Butiama" between 2005 and 2011.

When football archrivals Simba Sports Club and Dar-es-salaam Young Africans last clashed at Kirumba Stadium in Mwanza, I overheard a conversation between two residents of Butiama. One of them was informing the other that he had to complete his errands in time to catch the live broadcast of the soccer match from Mwanza. When he wanted to know whether his colleague would join him to listen to the broadcast, he received an unexpected response.

“I have no time cheering people I do not know,” he said to the second, adding, “I am surprised to see people so involved with soccer teams and sometimes, during matches, even questioning the team manager’s decision to substitute a particular player. I bet if Athumani Machupa shows up one day at the mtera (Butiama’s weekly market) very few of these so-called soccer fans will recognize him."

He went on, from Tanzanian to European soccer teams, and explained how some Tanzanian soccer enthusiasts have become “experts” on European soccer leagues, the United Kingdom’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, and Italy’s Serie A, but especially “experts” on European-based soccer stars.

It is true that, thanks to a combination of live television broadcasts of European soccer leagues, and the hundreds of articles appearing in local newspapers on European soccer players and their teams, many soccer fans have built up considerable information bases on their favourite teams and players.

I learnt from someone at Butiama a long time ago that a Dutch soccer player called Davidtz, whose only detail I recall is his trademark wearing of protective eyeglasses each time he plays in a match, never travels by plane. I assume that the highest altitude he has ever reached is the highest point he has managed to jump during a soccer match.

Last Monday I was on a bus to Mwanza and of the several subjects of conversation that I managed to ‘tune in to’ from fellow passengers during the bus journey was one on politics, specifically Chama cha Mapinduzi’s candidate for this October’s [2005] presidential elections, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.

“You don’t know Kikwete?”
“You have never seen him, not even seen his photograph?”

Then the informed one of the two began to describe Honourable Kikwete to someone who, presumably, will vote in October. I wouldn’t be surprised if she votes for Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

Three weeks ago if someone from CCM told me that it was necessary for their presidential candidate to be “introduced to Tanzanians” I would have suggested that they should recruit another political consultant. Now that “the truth” is out, they should probably give her a bonus.

The ongoing social and economic dependencies and interaction between the inhabitants of a real village has led some people to create the phrase “global village” to refer to a similar situation that exist between the inhabitants and nations of our world today.

In a real village everyone knows everyone else, but in the global village it seems people tend to know more about other “villagers” then they know about themselves. Those Tanzanian-based soccer fans of European leagues are one example. They will tell you which teams Ruud van Nistelroy has played for, and they can even tell you why Manchester United’s team manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, threw a football boot at soccer star David Beckam.

Ask them about matters close to home, and they begin to fumble because the news they are exposed to does not give much attention to subjects that a wider “globalized” audience does not care about.

Sometimes “global village” exposure does produce some important gains. Some time ago, when several names were being discussed as possible contenders in the presidential elections in Liberia, one of the names which received a lot of attention in the country and around the world was that of former footballer of the year George Opong Weah.

When both his soccer and political fans were eager to find out whether he would hang up his soccer boots and put on his political gloves, he could not be found for comment.

Then it was discovered that he was in the Democratic Republic of Congo discussing the possibility of coaching Congo’s national team.

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