Athletics loses lustre

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The end is near for athletics.
Once a vibrant and well oiled sport – only second to soccer – athletics is heading for the graves with National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (NAAZ) president Joseph Mungwari presiding over the funeral.
There is hardly any sponsor for the sport which ushered greats like Artwell Mandaza, Julia Sakala, Brian Dzingai, Tendai Chimusasa, Stephen Muzhingi and Samukeliso Moyo to name just but a few.
The association, which has a neatly written calendar has found most of their scheduled events canceled either because there is no sponsorship or lack of interest.
In the early 1980s, athletics was the most talked about sport behind soccer but the so called minority sports like cricket and rugby have now overtaken athletics in popularity.
There are no clear cut structures countrywide while performance standards are tumbling. Gone are the days when there were the glamorous Chibuku National Championships, Dairibord National Championships or Mobil National Championships.
If you visit the high density suburb of Mbare in Harare or Mzilikazi in Bulawayo, there is a high probability that a young sports fan will mention Tatenda Taibu, Brendan Taylor or Hamilton Masakadza or even Peter Ndlovu, than sprinter Dzingai who finished fourth behind the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
The reason behind this debacle is solely to do with recycled administration. Mungwari has been at the helm of the association for far too long and offers no new ideas. The Gweru based administrator has been at the helm of the association for over 10 years now.
What makes Mungwari a rather controversial character is the fact he was expelled by the Sports and Recreation Commission in 2000 for alleged maladministration. He only bounced back after fighting the supreme sports body in the courts.
At that time the association had failed to submit audited accounts for three years and there was alleged favoritism in selection as well as violations in the constitutional stipulations regarding the selection members into athletics leadership.
But NAAZ secretary general David Leboho yesterday defended their position but admitted that there was no sponsorship.
“It is not just athletics which does not have sponsorship. This was as a result of the economy which was in slump but I must say things have improved and glamour is returning in the sport. For example our athletes recently harvested 20 medals at a meet in Mozambique. That speaks a lot of the talent which is there and participation has also improved.”
On overstaying Leboho said: “We are not the only ones who have held positions for a long time. “Leonard Chuene was Athletics South Africa boss for over 10 years while in Kenya the same applies for the administrators who are there.
“International Athletics Associations Federation (IAAF) president Lamine Diack was there when I came in and he is still there. When you become part of athletics you become a family. We are prepared to step down if we are voted out.”