Are We Just Making Up the Numbers?

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Carlos Kambaekwa As widely expected, our athletes are finding the going tough at the Commonwealth Games underway in Melbourne, Australia, and medals are very hard to come by. Namibian sport has taken a slippery-slope journey, and disciplines such as Swimming, Athletics, Cycling and Wrestling have now just become another face in the crowd. In years gone by, it was always a foregone conclusion that Namibia would rake in a significant number of medals through the exploits of Frank Fredericks on the fast track, at least one each from the 100 and 200 meters finals, irrespective of the colour. Our sport is paying a heavy price for the total lack of visionary leaders in most our of the sport structures – and as result, we are made to face the jive which some of us do not appreciate at all. Going into day nine of competition, Namibia could only amass a paltry number of two medals, from boxing and pistol shooting respectively, and while our boxers have managed to hoist the Namibian flag high at most international events in the past – I’m developing goose flesh just for the mere thought that we have become so heavily depended on an ageing toppie nearing the halfway mark of a century to cage the dodgy medals. I vividly remember the good old days when Friedhelm Sack tried his hand at the beautiful game with unfashionable outfit DTS, with his pair of somewhat jelly legs always wrapped up in white knee-caps – much to the delight of his opponents because we could easily spot him approaching and stayed clear of his mistimed tackles. However, father time caught up with “Ou Sakkies’ and the brother became moeg and sick of chasing an inflated pigskin for mahala and rather turned to pistol shooting as a pastime. So, what was once a little hobby to while away time for a retired footballer has now become the hope of a sports mad starving nation – the ageing zapper has always been amongst the rare medals collectors for his country and I can hardly recall any international event where this toppie failed to add to Namibia’s tally. As in Fredericks’ case, “Ou Sakkies” will have to call it a day at some stage, while local sports authorities are permanently developing future stars to take over the reins from the tried and tested. Veteran mountain biker Mannie Heymans is another medal hopeful but the hippie look-alike cyclist is also getting a little long in the tooth and is likely to become statistics soon like the bell-bottoms. Our medal hopes were severely dented at the eleventh hour withdrawal of middle-distance queen Agnes Samaria through a nagging injury, and to rub salt into the wound – the amateurish style in which Athletics Namibia handled Beata Nagambo’s qualification for the Games must have had a negative effect on her preparation and any clear headed soul cannot fault the poor lass for her somewhat lukewarm showing which saw her collapsing halfway through the gruelling 42-kilometer race. As I’m penning down these notes now, boxer Japhet Uutoni has already punched his way to the final of the light flyweight division, and is a strong candidate for a gold medal in this particular category. Who knows what could have happened had some of the self-styled sport officials not put their personal interest ahead of athletes – two genuine medal hopefuls in the form of disabled athletes were grounded because none of the officials were prepared to sacrifice a paid-up trip to mingle with some aborigines for a good cause. Lucketz Swartbooi should have been in Melbourne but the veteran gap-toothed long distance runner was summarily omitted from the touring squad by over eager officials on the assumption that the door was shut on him after testing positive for a banned substance – which only warranted disqualification from that particular race. The timely intervention from the media correctly pointed out the grave mistake, but Brra Alpha would have none of it and stood firm like a concrete wall, only to make a sudden U-turn without the audacity of retracting his earlier boastful pronouncement on Swartboois’ alleged ban. With a sizeable contingent of 43 athletes including an entourage of 26 team officials and hangers-on (more than half the number of athletes), surely, the scarcity of medals leaves quite a lot to be desired, and I personally believe the time has come for all stakeholders to put our shoulders to the wheel and start afresh. With virtually no new blood coming through the ranks, we could soon start dispatching an entire team of pensioners to represent the country internationally if the current trend is not arrested. That’s it for this week – so, until next Friday, I’m off.