From the plains of the Serengeti to the foothills of the Kilimanjaro to the coast of Dar es Salaam, Tanzanians speak more than 100 languages. Since 2013, a select group of sports enthusiasts have also started speaking in a new language in this historically rich nation.
And if you hear the chant of Kabadi! Kabaddi! Kabaddi! , be rest assured it would probably be Joseph Isaya Mlotwa Lusinde and his teammates playing kabaddi.
Since the introduction of the sport in Tanzania, kabaddi is seeing an unprecedented growth in the region as well. And Joseph is playing a big part for the game in the African continent.
Last year he was picked as one of the foreign players for the inaugural Indo International Premier League Kabaddi (IIPKL), a professional kabaddi league in India.
“Playing kabaddi in a country where the game is still in its infancy is a big challenge. There is no definitive funding or sponsors ,” said the 27-year-old.
He added that the unwavering support from his family, especially his mother was instrumental in him making the grade not only as the club captain but also as the national team captain.
“My mother always motivate me to work hard in my daily exercise. With the club having no sponsorship, my mother will pay for my bus fare to go to the training ground at JMK Park. She always prayed for my success,” said a beaming Joseph.
It was the current Tanzania Kabaddi Federation president Abdallah Mustafa Nyoni, who worked tirelessly to introduce kabaddi in Tanzania with the support from Indian Embassy. The Federation was officially registered with the National Sports Council in 2016 and became an affiliate of World Kabaddi in 2018.
“He influenced me to take up kabaddi at the club level where we were practicing other sports including wushu, kungfu and zurkhaneh,” said Joseph, who is a senior member of the Buffalo Kabaddi Club in the Mbagala Temeke District.
Joseph was picked as the Best Tanzanian Player while the Buffalo Kabaddi Club, the Best Local Kabaddi Organisation in conjunction with the World Kabaddi Day in March.
“I still play football and practice wushu when I have time, but since taking up kabaddi, I have fallen in love with it. Kabaddi is my first choice now,” said Joseph.
His first international debut was at the Dr. Ambedkar World Cup Circle Kabaddi Championship organised by the Punjab state government in 2016.
“I was one of the first players who were picked to train under coach Abhay Raj Singh and Mr. Abdallah for the tournament,” said the raider.
Joseph, who hails from Ilala district in Dar Es Salaam, added that he had always looked forward to represent Tanzania.
“From the time I first stepped into a kabaddi court, I was looking forward to represent Tanzania national team. I was part of the pioneer 64 players in the first training squad with the Buffalo Kabaddi Sports. It helped me make the transition quickly and boost my moral and chance to excel,” said Joseph.
Joseph has taken part in numerous other championships, including the 2018 Africa Kabaddi Cup in Nairobi, Kenya.
At the inaugural JBM SOTE-SDG Kabaddi tournament in Nairobi the same year, he captained the team to the runners-up spot behind the team from Iraq.
The one disappointment for him and his teammates was missing the Melaka World Cup Kabaddi last year.
“We were well prepared, but unfortunately were unable to make the trip. I hope that I would be able to make the national squad for the next World Cup,” said Joseph.
He added that kabaddi has a bright future to grow rapidly in Tanzania.
“Playing kabaddi is fun and can inspire many young players to join. My expectations and my colleagues is for kabaddi to become the most popular game and most followed sports in media in Tanzania in the near future,” said Joseph.
He added that sponsors would come forward to assist the youth Kabaddi programs in Tanzania. It would motivate young players to work hard to continue the foundation laid by our leaders and pioneer players,” said Joseph.
He added there are plans to start a kabaddi league in Tanzania and the infusion of sponsorship would make it a reality.
“I hope Tanzania Kabaddi would be able to implement its five-year youth Kabaddi Sports Development Program in primary and secondary schools. The strategy is also to organise its own league and take part in regional and international competitions organised by World Kabaddi and Kabaddi Africa,” said Joseph.
He added that Tanzania needed not only financial support but also assistance to improve its coaching and technical set-ups.
“I also hope for a concerted effort from all nations to fight for the inclusion of Kabaddi in the Olympic Games. It is the best way to elevate the status of this sport and for the players to achieve their ambition,” said the optimistic Joseph.
He added that it was also important for the next generation of players to listen to the advice from their coaches and be optimistic about the future.
“They should know that there are the a treasure for the Nation and always should ask themselves ‘What he will do for Kabaddi instead to think what Kabaddi will do for him?’. They must train hard and strive to be better than others,” said Joseph.