Where Are The Medals?

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Shooting From The Hip

Carlos Kambaekwa

It is very interesting and at the same time not at all surprising that going into the half-stage of the Pan-African Games underway in Algeria, the small Namibian contingent of athletes are yet to lay their hands on any medals irrespective of the colour – perhaps an indication as to where our sport is heading.

Namibia made her maiden appearance at the continental showpiece way back in 1991 in Cairo, and came out with flying colours, where Frank Fredericks, Monica Dahl and Harry Simon led Team Namibia and collected a total of 14 medals, including 4 gold – but, since then, there has been a worrisome decline in the performance of local athletes.

In the subsequent edition in Harare, Namibia could only manage to grace the podium on nine occasions and the medal tally was eventually reduced to five during the 7th edition in Greater Johannesburg, four years later.

The writing was already on the wall at the 8th edition of the continental showpiece in Abuja, where a sizeable Namibian contingent returned home with a paltry collection of three medals – two silver and one bronze – courtesy of Frank Fredericks (200-metres), Erik Hoffman (time trial cycling) and the Girls’ Gymnastics team.

Surely, these alarming statistics were enough to have butterflies running riot in the bellies of sports authorities and one would have expected them to start putting their ducks in the row and do some kind of damage control.

Instead, much-needed energy was rather channelled to lecturing one Alpha on how to behave and exercise some kind of respect for authority but, alas, the street-smart outie from the notorious Police Camp enclave would have none of this and has since taken refuge in the company of Leonard Chuene.

“The days of dispatching developmental teams to international events are long gone”. This has been the common and boring phrase so persistently uttered by sports authorities on the eve of almost every major competition but, in all practicality, deeds are louder than words.

The sport-mad Namibian public has been hoodwinked into believing the small contingent of 54 athletes to Algiers was mainly geared towards achieving the best possible results, but how do we expect athletes to perform at their best without proper structures in place if Team Management is only appointed four weeks before the Games got underway in earnest.

With such a short space of time for the athletes to get out of their blocks – what happened to the promised large amounts of moolah in the form of preparation grant?

Ironically, no Namibian sports team managed to qualify for this year’s Games, with the Men’s Hockey, Volleyball, Tennis, Basketball and both the National Under-23 Men’s and Women’s Football teams all failing to make the trip far north.

Hosts Algeria has the largest number of participants with slightly over 1 000, while South Africa dispatched a total of 608 athletes to the North African country.

The National Sports Commission really needs to start living up to their mandate and stop the rot, because serious question-marks are really hanging over its ability to ratify all kinds of team selection and athletes alike representing the country.

It’s quite surprising that the line Ministry has never really been seriously reprimanded in the august House to shed some light on the country’s slippery slope journey on the International arena – perhaps that million-dollar question is reserved for the day when the Brave Warriors fail to make the cut for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

In the past, there have been several workshops and seminars on how to improve the standard of Namibian sports from administrative level to development, talent-scouting and all that sort of beef, but eventually nothing of substance emerged from the brainstorming sessions.

A case in point – what happened to the Resolutions of the Greiter Conference or, worse, the much-hyped Football Indaba? Well, the reality is that all these somewhat expensive exercises are now safely stored in the dustbin of the has-beens.

One Particular Notable Absentee from the African Family

Ever wondered as to why Morocco has been regular absentees from the Pan-African Games? There are 53 countries on the African continent, including its surrounding islands such as Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles, but when it comes to the continent’s biggest showpiece, only 52 oblige and yet very few people take note or pose any questions on the whereabouts of Morocco.

Last year, yours truly had the privilege of attending a 10-day Sports Seminar on Athletic Production in Fez’ in the Northern part of Morocco, and it was at this juncture where my Shooting from the Hip instincts took the better of me and, after gathering up enough courage, I posed the question why Morocco was a notable absentee from the All Africa Games.

After a silence of a few seconds and seemingly not-so-pleasant shuffling of chairs among the delegates, one plucky husky-voiced chirpy, clearly irritated by my question, boldly fired back that Morocco was not part of the Organization of African Unity, hence it’s no show – I nodded in agreement with a wry smile, but quickly countered that the Moroccans were regulars at the African Cup of Nations.

Hell almost broke loose, and I was quickly reminded to stick to the subject of learning the finer points of Television Production in Athletic coverage and leave the nitty-gritty of Morocco’s non-participation at the All Africa Games to the lawmakers.

Maybe some courageous elements out there would be able to shed more light as to why Morocco want its bread buttered on both sides – dying to play in the AFCON Cup finals while shunning the All Africa Games?

I think it’s time for me to pen off right here.

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