SPORTS Minister Chishimba Kambwili often calls a spade a spade and, this past week, he was widely quoted by the mainstream media as saying he does not expect Zambia to reap medals at this year’s Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Nanjing Youth Olympics due to last minute preparations for its athletes, including boxers.
To paraphrase him, Kambwili was saying, in essence, that nothing short of a miracle would have to happen for the athletes to have a ghost of chance of winning any medals at these highly competitive games which entail long, arduous and painstaking groundwork to excel.
He cited Cuba, which, he said, started preparations for the Games about eight years ago and ruled out any chance of Zambia’s representatives competing with their peers from that country who, by competition time, will have attained marquee value.
“It’s difficult to compete with countries like Cuba who started preparing their athletes about eight years ago, while here we do just a few months before the games. We must admit we are ill-equipped and not ready for these medals,” he said.
I laughed when Kambwili said, “You see! So expecting medals from our athletes will be asking for too much…” while reacting to an answer by director of sports Bessie Chelemu, who said: “In April this year,” when he asked her when the athletes would start preparations. That’s three months before the Games start on July 23-August 3.
I agree with Kambwili and national boxing team coach Kennedy Kanyanta that it’s a challenge to produce medal-winning athletes for this year’s Games.
Kanyanta was commenting on Kambwili’s remarks and noted that the minister’s statement needed serious evaluation and it should be taken as a challenge by the boxers.
I, however, beg to differ with the minister’s admission that our tardy preparations for major tournaments is due, in part, to the absence of, or, delayed implementation of the revised national sports policy.
As Kambwili himself correctly observed, the revised policy is there, although it awaits implementation. From where I stand, unless and until this policy is implemented, it will continue to be used as a scapegoat for Zambia’s inability to prepare early for international competitions. Should it?
Yes, without the policy, which must be the by-word, a guide on how to nurture the development of sport in Zambia in place, it can be argued, things are basically done higgledy-piggledy.
But then, even with the old policy which has been in use until the new one is implemented, why is it, for instance, that preparations for this year’s Games will only start at the 11th hour?
When did Zambia learn about this year’s Games? With or without a new policy in place? Assuming it was a year ago and not last month, why were steps not taken to start the preparations early? Can we seriously attribute the delays in getting ready for the Games to the absence of a new policy?
I hear you say, government does not always have readily available resources and even if it wanted to do things early, this poses a big challenge.
Granted, nothing can move without resources and therein lies the need for the authorities to step up to the plate and change the way of doing things. Meaning, these events are budgeted for in advance and resources must surely be found.
A clear-cut policy will guide authorities about medium-short-long term strategies for major local as well as international tournaments and or programmes. The policy will even set out what kinds of competitions Zambia can participate in and which ones it can’t or shouldn’t and why.
The policy will define specific roles and functions for all the stakeholders like the boxers, the coaches, the Government via the ministry, funding strategies and so on and so forth. But I doubt very much whether the new policy in itself will necessarily change anything.
What will, I believe, is a paradigm shift in the way we do things in Zambia. The policy is certainly a good thing, but it takes more than the existence of a policy to achieve results.
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