RELATIVE good, would be my assessment of the performance of the Zambian athletics team that took part at the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) Africa Senior Athletics Championship held in Durban South Africa.
The athletes came back with two medals, a gold medal from Kabange Mupopo, who defended her African title in the 400m race, and the 4X100m men’s relay team who won bronze.
This was a feat the boys (Brian Kasinda, Sydney Siame, Titus Kafunda and Hazemba Chindamba) was achieved without having the big brother, Gerald Phiri, who is Zambia fastest man, in the team after he sustained a hip injury which is threatening his participation at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games coming in next month.
Kabange’s performance was great while the relay team was outstanding most especially that three of the four members are juniors, away below 20 years and will later this month be competing at the World Junior Championship in Poland.
But two medals from a team of 11 runners is again rather not the best of statistics to show off for a country gunning for an Olympics gold medal.
Then sadly upon arrival at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA), the athletes protested at the failure to be paid the US$150 they were promised ahead of the tournament.
That is what really strikes me and not that the blame is going on the Zambia amateur Athletics Association (ZAAA) no, but rather on Government that I believe thinks to give sports a bit more attention than its getting.
Football comes into the picture here where each member of the national team gets thousands of United States dollars if they win a game from the Government treasury but no such things is accorded to high performing sports like athletes.
It is difficult to see where the motivation for the athletes is going to come from if they will continue working so hard and not get rewarded when they can see that their football mates get rewarded heavily for not even winning a medal.
Where then, what will be the lure for a child who is been told that he can make it in athletics when he or she does not see any reason from the current athletes competing at a continental level.
A sports policy is currently under review and the words given to the various sportsmen and women, who have gone out and performed with hope that the issue if incentives will be looked into.
That policy has taken too long to come to fruition and what is going to happen now is that an increasing form of de-motivation in the sportsmen and will render the 2020 dream of a gold medal at the Olympics rather difficult.
The Ministry of Sports in collaboration with the National Olympics Committee (NOC) has targeted 2020 as the year Zambia should reap a first ever gold medal at the Olympics and if we continue this, we shall not achieve this.
And two of the main targets to deliver that gold medal are among those that protested the non-payments of allowances and it becomes difficult to push them to perform at their best at all times.
Siame and Kasinda are two 18-year olds who have enormous potential and with the right attention and motivation, either can deliver that much needed gold in 2020 which if they don’t in that year, they can do so in 2024.
Their age is right but this is when it is most important to keep them in the loop.
I understand the frustrations of the Oriental Quarries Boxing Promotions team on promises to Catherine Phiri over a house. Charles Manyuchi, from the same stable, is now dining with Robert Mugabe with enormous rewards from the Government. Let’s motivate our sportsmen rightly.
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