Using sport as a tool to alleviate poverty in Tanzania

Using sport as a tool to alleviate poverty in Tanzania

Sport is a universal language that can bring people together, no matter what their origin, background, religious beliefs, or economic status”
— Kofi Annan

Sport is globally recognised as a tool to facilitate positive social change and is a practical tool to engage young people in their communities through volunteering, collaboration and positive role modelling.

The 6th of April is the official the United Nations (UN) International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, and we celebrated this for the first time in 2014. The International Day of Sport recognises the positive influence that sport can play in advancing human rights and social and economic development. In the UN’s Declaration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, sport’s role in social progress is acknowledged:


Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development. We recognize the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.”

In Tanzania and in Africa in general, people love football. Both adults and children often walk miles to watch a game on a small TV in a local bar or to train at their local sports club. Many of our young players walk for miles each night, often on empty stomachs to attend training and despite this they are always full of passion and enthusiasm .

At Lengo  we use football as a tool to bring about positive social change for disadvantaged youth in Tanzania. Here are three ways we are having an impact on the Tanzanian community beyond the sporting arena.

1.    Learning off the field

Lengo works closely with the families of the players to ensure that the players have what they need to stay in school to give them the best chance to reach their potential in life. We do this through player sponsorship and positive role modelling to ensure that our youth see the benefits of continuing their education. We also ensure our player’s families are supported through a  sponsorship program that aims to provide the family with enough capital to start a small business, such as building a chicken coop and breeding chickens. This provides the parents with enough income to keep their children in school and works to break the cycle of poverty.

In Tanzania, staying in school will give young people the best chance to succeed in life. There are many cultural and economic barriers to our boys and girls staying in school and this is generally due to their families not having enough income to pay for expenses such as uniforms, shoes and books. Lengo’s vision is to have all our players graduate from secondary school and have an opportunity to attend vocational education or college.

2.    Long-term physical health

There was a period during the 1990’s when the Tanzanian Government banned sport from school and culturally this continues to impact the youth in Tanzania as their parents don’t see the benefit of their children playing sport. We know that by exercising children have greater self-esteem, more confidence, better memories and simply just feel better about themselves. We work closely with the parents in our community to promote the benefits of playing sport and encourage them to allow their children to attend the Academy. We do not charge membership fees and allow all children to attend, no matter what their background or financial status.

3.    Positive choices in life

The UN has published research that demonstrates that sport, combined with leadership and life-skills programs, will significantly reduce the risk of young people taking up negative habits such as drug taking and stealing.[1] In Tanzania it is extremely difficult for young people to find work after finishing school and therefore the temptation to turn to stealing to survive or drug taking to numb the boredom is high. Our senior team (aged 16-22) are most at risk of succumbing to this which is why we train six  times a week and have an employment program to help them take their next step in life and become self-sufficient. We train our senior team to be football coaches and employ them in our fee-for-service clinics and camps, which provides them with a source of income.

When we ask our players what they look forward to the most out of their day they always say it’s the training that takes place at 5pm Monday – Friday and 10am on Saturday. We have zero tolerance for drug taking and if in school our players must have attended that day to train. Our training gives them a reason to go to school and to refrain from drinking or taking drugs.

Lengo Football Academy uses the universal language of football to alleviate poverty in Tanzania. Join us by sponsoring a player or kick starting our players to go to secondary school. Or simply join the Lengo tribe by signing up to our newsletter to get regular updates on all the news from on and off the field. Stand with us to empower our young players reach their potential in life and alleviate poverty in Tanzania.

By Roxanne Strauss


Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination” 
— Nelson Mandela (1918–2013)