Columnists

Destitution: Growing trend among sportsmen

KABAMBA

Analysis: MATHEWS KABAMBA
FOR a celebrated sports personality, retirement often comes at a price, and for former national heavy weight champion Joseph ‘No Pressure’ Chingangu it has come at a heavy price.Last Friday, the Lusaka Magistrates Court convicted Chingangu of theft and assault.
The court, through magistrate Felix Kaoma, ‘punched’ the former boxer with an 18-month jail sentence for his misdeeds.
On May 7, the former African Boxing Union heavyweight champion is reported to have stolen two suitcases containing clothes valued at K1,440 from Majory Mvula’s car.
Before this conviction, ‘No Pressure’ has had run-ins with the law.
In 2016, Chingangu was beaten by University of Zambia (UNZA) students after he was allegedly caught trying to steal a laptop in one of the hostels at the institution.
That same year, he had car theft charges levelled against him, among other allegations, before being convicted of drug trafficking earlier this year and subsequently serving a two-month sentence.
A boxing fan notes with sadness: “Looking at what has transpired over the past years to date, former world heavyweight champion Chingangu ‘No Pressure’ has been in the headlines all over in print and electronic media for mischievous behaviour.
“If I recall very well, it is this same man who brought glory to the sport of boxing in this country, but today, he has been in and out of police cells and hospitals for various charges and injuries.”
At the height of his boxing career, not many could have anticipated that Chingangu would end up “selling his integrity” when he hung up his fighting gloves.
Chingangu had a career envied by many since making his professional debut in 1992. He fought 36 times with nine losses and 27 victories; he had an impressive knock-out of 56 percent.
His high profile bout was in 1999 when he fought against celebrated Ukrainian boxing legend Wladmir Klitschko for the vacant Commonwealth heavyweight title.
Chingangu lost on a point’s decision.
Former Zambia Professional Boxing and Wrestling Control Board (ZPBWC) secretary John Shipanuka honed Chingangu’s career and is disappointed with what has become of the former pugilist.
“It is unfortunate. You cannot have a former sportsman always being involved in criminality like that. It is very sad, to say the least. That boy was a promising star.
“I picked that boy; he was introduced to me by Lyson Mwatipula. I registered him in my gym and took him out for the first time fight in Germany in 1986. He could have been a world champion,” Shipanuka says.
Shipanuka says discipline or lack of it was Chingangu’s greatest undoing.
Former Zambia Boxing Federation (ZBF) president Thomas Chileshe is more sympathetic of the ‘calamity’ that has befallen Chingangu just six years after he fought his last professional fight.
“There is pressure after a life in the limelight. I think some of the things he did not do them intentionally, rather he must have been depressed with life when he became destitute.
“I know Joseph very well, he is a good person, and society just became tough for him. Former athletes need to be taken care of, too. They also need guidance when they are past their days,” Chileshe said.
The Zambian prisons system has changed its model from offering a punitive service to a more correctional one. Therefore, many hope the one-and-a-half year Chingangu will spend in jail will reform him to a status befitting his legacy in the ring.
Accounts of former athletes struggling after their heydays abound. There is need for sports personalities to prepare for a time when all the glory and fame will fade.
Financial literacy among most sportsmen is generally poor as can be seen in the struggles that many go through after they leave the stage for good. Few save for a rainy day.
Football Association of Zambia vice-president Rix Mweemba has simple advice for athletes: “Save money. What hurts me is to see a lot of players being destitute after they hang boots. That can be avoided if you develop a culture of saving.”
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail sports reporter.

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