Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
IN ALL fairness, there is need for the Ministry of Sport to rise to the occasion and pay equal attention to all sports disciplines by granting recognition to
all deserving sportsmen and women as opposed to only holding a banquet when the national football teams pick up silverware.
Over a fortnight ago at the Bahamas Commonwealth Games, two Zambians did the nation proud by minting gold in judo and athletics yet no-one paid any attention to that.
Judoka Simon Zulu (66kg) and runner Kennedy Luchembe won gold at the 2017 Youth Commonwealth Games in Nassau.
Prior to the Club games in the north-western West Indies, upcoming short-distance runner Sydney Siame won the Olympic Youth Gold medal in the 100m race but there was dead silence, not just on the streets but even in sports corridors such as the Ministry of Sport, National Sports Council of Zambia and the National Olympic Committee (NOC).
Yet, when the Under-17 national soccer team won the COSAFA Cup in Mauritius, there was a lot of fanfare.
The same excitement ripped through the nation for reaching the quarter finals of the FIFA Under-20 world cup recently held in South Korea.
As we look back on the 2017 International Athletics Associations Federation World championships in London, Siame broke the national record and ran himself into the semi-finals.
We also have a Zambian woman, Kabange Mupopo, making history as the first native of her country to run in the finals of the world championships.
The two performed wonders and it must be noted that in his qualifying heat, Siame beat 2013 silver medallist Warren Weir, and Mupopo out-ran 2011 gold medallist Amantle Monsho.
Siame raced to fourth position and failed to qualify for the final while Mupopo finished second from last.
Despite the somewhat neglect of deserving sportsmen from the so-called minor sports, the coming into power of the PF government has brought about a spirit of winning, which in consultation with their manifesto, rewards should go to all athletes and not just footballers.
Footballers are lavished with incentives starting from lunches or dinners to money and being declared heroes yet the other disciplines have had the national flag not only hoisted high but backed with the national anthem being played as the case was in the Bahamas.
When the FIFA Under-20 World Cup was going on, the Ministry of Sport was literally crippled as almost their entire core staff were away in Korea.
Can you imagine that happening if it was the national basketball or volleyball team?
Serious reflection and adjustment are needed if other sports are to be inspired to excel and bring glory to mother Zambia.
Government should come up with incentives which should be applied across the board to inspire athletes from all disciplines.
I hope that the PF has taken note of the young people’s performances in Bahamas and London and will liaise with the ministry of Sports so that deserving athletes are rewarded accordingly.
For Siame, a police officer who falls under Home Affairs, promotion is in order.
Kabange, on the other hand, is a soldier who also deserves recognition by her employers, the Zambia Army.
NOC should on its part start making arrangements for the two youth athletes’ scholarships to hone their skills abroad.
By the way, there is huge concern over unnecessary delay it is taking for the new National Sports Council of Zambia board to be fully constituted.
Elections for elective members were conducted close to six months ago, but Minister of Sports Moses Mawere is yet to come up with names for cabinet approval.
The NSCZ plays a critical role in implementing government sports policy as well as giving advice to the State through the Ministry of Sport. It is, therefore, important that this pending issue finds itself in the out tray.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.