All-Africa Games preps should start now

Young warriors captain Wisdom Mutasa (C) celebrates his goal against Cameroon as fellow players join in at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday.

THE Under-23 football team has qualified for the All-Africa Games to be staged in Congo-Brazzaville in September together with the men’s and women’s beach volleyball teams.

By the time the finals start, it is hoped that more teams would have qualified for the continental showcase to give Zimbabwe a large representation and a chance to come up with even more medals.

The beach volleyball teams made it to the finals of the continental games after finishing fourth in the regional qualifiers held in Mozambique at the end of April. The Zimbabwe representatives will now join South Africa, Mozambique and Angola from the Zone VI region.

But since these three teams made it to the finals, these have had little in terms of participation because of a misguided belief that their respective associations must take care of them. In terms of preparations yes, the associations have that duty, but the rest of the business belongs to government.

It is an established fact that from the onset going to the All-Africa Games is no association business, but it’s a government problem.

The very fact that there is no clear sign of action from the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture and their operating arm, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), on how these teams will be funded shows lack of foresight and seriousness on the part of the State.

It is important that government does leave the preparations and funding to the associations as they are broke, but must look elsewhere and assist where possible so that athletes can be allowed to pursue their aspirations.

Zimbabwe should not be embarrassed on the international stage with local athletes dressed, if at all, in all sorts of colours. It’s important that the country has one national dress code for all the teams and athletes that will do duty in September.
We believe that the SRC and the Ministry cannot be fixated with dealing with individual associations, but must look at sport as a whole from funding, development, empowering trainers, supervising and taking charge at national events.

Otherwise this is why the SRC has failed to deal with the Independence Trophy fiasco between Dynamos and FC Platinum which was abandoned after 65 minutes of play on April 18 this year. Now the final will be replayed on May 13, only if Dynamos decide to play.

The very fact that fans will now be required to pay to meet the costs of the match shows that the SRC is just not up to the task.

If the SRC has to remain relevant, then it must change its way of operating and adapt to the modernisation of sport in the world.

For instance, in South Africa, the Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) website clearly states this body is the national government department responsible for sport in that country. Aligned with its vision of creating “An Active and Winning Nation”, its primary focus is to provide opportunities for all its citizens to participate in sport; managing the regulatory framework thereof, and providing funding for different codes of sport.

There will be 22 sports disciplines in Congo-Brazzaville with two more for sportspeople with disabilities (athletics and swimming) and it remains to be seen as to what will happen to Zimbabwe’s disabled athletes if sports are so underfunded.
Because there are just four months before the games start, it is important for all stakeholders to begin preparations as a matter of urgency, and ensure our representation is fully catered for.