Sports is a sitting duck

24 June 2019 | Columns

Limba Mupetami

Sports development in Namibia is a sitting duck. This is because the Namibian government has over the years developed a pattern of disappointing athletes and turning everything they touch into a mess.

Somebody needs to buy these people a vision board at CNA. I mean, do they have a vision at all? I get it; the ministry of sport depends on money from finance, thereby dispensing it to the sports commission, which in turn feeds the federations, and so forth.

Now, when the national sports budget from the outset is a mess, everyone is in turn cut down at the knees. It is a truly sad situation, more so when you have very young, inspired and talented athletes depending on the government to aid them.

A great example of this is the failure of the ministry to support the Namibia Schools Sports Union (NSSU). The announcement that they will not be receiving money to execute and implement various international sport programmes is best described as 'kicking a man that is already down' - nogals in the teeth!

The school sports umbrella body should implement school league systems in circuits, clusters, constituencies and regions, which have limited or no transport implications, with immediate effect, because money is scarce said the ministry.

Now in these regions, are there proper structures for games to be played? Or are we taking athletes to sandy fields? Furthermore, the NSSU is directed to do away with any trial system for the selection of teams. I'm still trying to get my head around this.

Additionally, they are also directed to source for sponsorships or alternative funding for the Confederation of School Sport Associations of Southern Africa (Cossasa) Games.

The sports union represents various sports codes in the country, thus providing opportunities for learners to become involved in sports and physical recreational activities at primary and secondary school level in order for them to realise their full potential.

With performances locally, the NSSU then pushes these athletes to compete, and test their quality internationally. I mean it just makes sense. You dangle a carrot of opportunity in front of these athletes, thus encouraging them to do better, beyond borders.

When we say athletes should only perform locally – we are creating a false sense of achievement because athletes have not been tested thoroughly by their competition.

As much as it's just schools sports and not the Brave Warriors, or Welwitschias, the activities provide by NSSU ensures that these kids have something to look forward to when they travel. They learn a lot. Also, with these competitions NSSU gets to see where they can improve on.

We need to have structures from which athletes can reach the senior stage. How on earth do you want to compete with the Wayde de Niekerks, Usain Bolts and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryces of the world if you have not properly groomed the young athletes you have?

People don't stand up and just start running and clocking 9 seconds on the board. They need constant coaching, nutrition, and all of these things require money.

In simple terms, the Namibian government is messed up, especially when it comes to putting in effort where it matters.

Imagine the stress this puts on parents who now need to find money for their children to compete in events internationally. Mind you, not all parents are equipped or have the means to do so.

Namibia truly needs to learn and get with the times, instead of arriving late with long, boring and uninspired speeches and squeezing themselves into photos after athletes return with medals from international competitions. Competitions they did not even support financially to start with.

If this continues, the Namibian national flag will not be raised, nor will its national anthem be heard at the medal ceremonies of any major international sports competition.

Because I mean, the only athletes really pushing and winning these medals are Helalia Johannes and the Para-Athletes who receive little from the Namibian government except applause.

We can't all dig a hole and stick our heads into it because we are not thinking strategically. But of course those in charge are failing to move with times and the sports budget keeps getting smaller.

My two cents

Those in charge of sports and those in charge of the Namibian money bag should analyse the problems faced in sports development and do something proactive about it. We keep asking for reparations from Germany, how about we just ask their sports ministry to help with sports development in turn? They can send volunteers to steer the ship. The Germans have produced great athletes over the years.

There is a constant increase in the price of equipment, cost of transport and accommodation, as well as the general demand of sports development programmes. Avail money. Instead of buying Mercedes-Benzes, and jetting off to China, America, Cuba and whatever and sucking every little cent from government covers. Invest in sports.

Is the government even keeping tabs on the development of athletes? How can they anyway, if the top brass keeps shuffling the cabinet and thus throwing people who are sports illiterate into the ministry – no pun intended. Ask any minister right now a simple question about what is happening on the ground in the ministry - the answer will be 'ask the executive director or that other chairperson' - this is because we have people who are not passionate about their jobs.

The Namibian government should truly start taking a more active role in the development of sport, providing support to athletes. I don't mean travelling to Afcon on their budget and having a great time. But really getting in deep with issues that affect rural athletes. Football and rugby are not the only sports in this country.

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