THE national amateur boxing team returned home last week from India where it bagged three bronze medals at the Commonwealth Boxing Championships.
Selemani Kidunda (middleweight), Hashim Simon (light-welterweight) and Leonard Machichi (light-heavyweight) won the medals which they proudly showed off to journalists and a handful well-wishers who turned up at the Julius Nyerere International Airport to accord them a heroes' welcome.
This was the best performance by our amateur pugilists in an international competition in the recent past. It should be remembered that the Boxing Federation of Tanzania (BFT) was beset with serious internal problems that culminated in Tanzania being stripped of its AIBA membership two years ago.
BFT rejoined the world boxing body early this year and this was the first time it was sending its boxers abroad. No wonder BFT secretary general Makore Mashaga, described the team's performance at the Commonwealth Games qualifying test in New Delhi as “successful”.
Yes, there is reason for BFT to brag because winning three medals in a tournament that brought together more than 100 boxers from 14 countries is not an easy task.
The most encouraging thing is that our boxers fought brilliantly against formidable opponents from boxing powerhouses England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Kenya, Samoa and Singapore.
The team also deserves praise because it trained under very harsh conditions prior to the Delhi championships. The boxers had all along complained of lack of training facilities and had to do with off-camp training due to financial constraints.
Credit should also go to Cuban coach Hurtado Pimentel, for his humility and dedication to moulding a winning outfit despite all the odds.
Their combined efforts have significantly brought Tanzania back to the world boxing map as evidenced by AIBA's offer of 10 chances for our boxers to participate in the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in October.
Frankly speaking, we wouldn't be celebrating today had it not been for the commitment and determination of the new BFT leadership under president Joan Minja.
Although they have been in office for a very short time, Minja and her lieutenants have done extremely well in turning around the country's boxing fortunes and it's just a matter of time before the country reclaims the glory it enjoyed during the good old days of the great Titus Simba, Habibu Kinyogoli and Michael Yombayomba.
I dare say that unlike other associations whose games are earmarked for the Club Games, BFT has proved to be more active in preparing its team. After last year's national championships, BFT promptly assembled a national team for training and we have started yielding the results.
The federation is also about to stage a national club championship that will enable coach Pimentel to pick reinforcements for the anxiously awaited Commonwealth Games. Keep up the spirit!