Independent Sport View:Young athletes’ retirement worrisome

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Simba Rushwaya

THE world over, you rarely have energetic sportsmen retire from their beloved occupation prematurely unless they have suffered catastrophic injury.In the past month, Zimbabwe was shocked as two of its brilliant sportsmen quit their disciplines owing to different reasons.
Knowledge Musona, the soccer player touted as the next Peter Ndlovu, abruptly resigned from international football  two weeks ago demanding  an apology from the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa),  who alleged the German-based striker had fixed the  Warriors’ 2014 World Cup  matches against Guinea and Mozambique.
A fortnight down the line, another excellent sportsman, cricketer Tatenda Taibu decided to call time on his career to “focus on working for the church”.
It was sad in that Taibu, an accomplished wicketkeeper and batsman, decided to leave the game at the tender age of 29 when most of his peers from across the globe are still immensely involved in the game.
“I just feel that my true calling now lies in doing the Lord’s work.  Although I am fortunate and proud to have played for my country, the time has come for me to put my entire focus on that part of my life,” Taibu remarked as a parting shot.
I can’t question Taibu’s decision to serve God, but could he not do so while playing cricket?
Taibu’s chosen path is noble, but I think there were push factors involved in his decision to leave.
The same can be steadfastly said of Musona who has temporarily hung his boots because of his differences with Zifa.
It has become a tendency for sport administrators in this country to advance their super egos ahead of the sporting disciplines and athletes they administer.
Instead of advancing the cause of athletes and development of sport, authorities tend to prioritise personal issues ahead of the people they lead over. Clashes usually stem from ideological and personal beliefs, but sports authorities must always bear in mind they are leaders. Leaders should be able to accommodate diverse views. Athletes all over the world are usually egoistic especially when at the peak of their careers. Who doesn’t know about Italy’s Mario Balotelli?
Players must be disciplined whenever they step out of line, but the process should be fair.
In Musona’s case I think he was right to ask Zifa to clear him before he bounces back into the Warriors set-up because he wants the “fixer” tag removed, otherwise it will have a negative impact on his career. Zifa should investigate this case and come up with a position. If the football governing body were trigger happy, they should indeed apologise and invite Musona back.
I’m not very sure about Taibu, but his running battles with Zimbabwe Cricket in the past are well documented, but it would be no surprise if he bounces back. He has done so before.
Administrators must stop being self-important and address the concerns of athletes, at the same time being firm with them.

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