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Zim sport a national embarrassment

ZIMBABWEAN sport is generally comatose at the moment. What is the problem? Is it the athletes, the coaches, administrators or sheer bad luck?  
Performances in virtually all sporting disciplines have been abysmal, plunging fans into a permanent state of despondency.

Local sport is generally in disarray and witnessing systemic failure  has probably affected the national psyche. Maybe our psychologists should research to determine how national morale is affected each time our flag bearers fail to deliver.

Poor preparations have always let us down and each time administrators fail to learn from previous mistakes. It’s now inexcusable and someone must take the blame and punishment for the repeated failures.

Sport is no longer just a game, but a source of national pride with the potential to foster national cohesion, as witnessed in several countries during major tournaments. It can also be a lucrative venture.

During the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa, political, cultural and social differences were put aside as people united to support their national team Bafana Bafana. Their flag became a symbol of unity, a rallying point.

Why does our government not see the opportunity to cement national cohesion and the pride sport offers? The major problem is that sport in Zimbabwe is run “like a dictatorship” by people who have been at the helm for many years, but are clueless on how to rescue it from the abyss it has been in for years.

Athletes train in extremely poor conditions and once seriously injured, there is a high likelihood their careers are over. Fitness is essential in sport, but local sportspersons are not monitored scientifically as is common across the world. There is neither proper medical care nor diet plans in place.

Several rugby players like Tendai Mtawarira, Tonderai Chavhanga, Brian Mujati, Bobby Skinstad and  David Pocock changed nationalities when they could no longer stand the indifference, greed, selfishness and ineptitude of local administrators. They have gone on to represent their adopted countries with distinction.

Where are our administrators, and what is government doing to stem the tide? It’s clear our administrators have no capacity to raise funds and unless the Ministry of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture comes up with a funding model, our teams will continue being a national embarrassment.

Minister David Coltart has lambasted Zifa for its shambolic handling of national teams, but has his ministry given the association money to extricate itself from the financial morass? A national team is a national project and not the responsibility of individual associations. Once a national flag is attached to any sport, it becomes a national project, so government must be involved.

It’s amazing that the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee and Coltart expected swimming queen Kirsty Coventry to win a medal at the London Olympics as if they helped in her preparations.

Coventry performed very well considering she got no assistance from ZOC and government. At the Beijing Olympics, Coventry swam through the chaos of ZOC to gold and three silver medals. That is true patriotism, not sloganeering.

It seems the days of teaching children competitive team sports as a way to improve fitness and develop teamwork skills are over. School sports are dead and physical education is no longer taught in most schools.

Coltart must initiate a policy shift  to ensure sport is back in the school curricula to instill discipline and pride. Sporting facilities in schools ranging from fields, gyms and swimming pools are in a state of disrepair. Community swimming pools are virtually abandoned and memories of spending afternoons in community pools continue to fade.

Even the Olympic-size Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex pool, built for the All-Africa Games, lies derelict and has now become more famous for live music band performances and church services than for swimming.

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