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Sports personalities need government support

insidesport:with MICHAEL KARIATI

ON December 12, Zimbabwe’s Brendon Denes, popularly known as Boika, was crowned the new World Boxing Organisation (WBO)’s Africa welterweight champion after he cut down to size Namibia’s Mikka Shonena inside six rounds of their scheduled 12-round fight.

This was a historic achievement coming after the Charles Manyuchi Academy student had endured a long road trip to Namibia and spent hours in a foreign land before the title fight.

This also comes after Charles Manyuchi himself had claimed the World Boxing Council (WBC) silver welterweight title and World Africa Boxing Association middleweight titles.

Another Zimbabwean, Hassani Milanzi, is also on his way to Tanzania for a crack at the Africa Boxing Union (ABU) lightweight title in which he battles Tony Rashid from the East African country.

All these boxers are flying the Zimbabwean flag, but sadly Hassan, just like Denes, will be forced to travel all the way to Tanzania by road because of inadequate funding.

Youth, Arts, Sport and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry said boxing, just like golf, swimming, diving and other sports in that category, do not fall under sporting disciplines that qualify for government funding.

She made it clear that only team sports and representatives to competitions like the Olympic and Paralympic Games are guaranteed government funding, not individuals taking part in sports they get individual rewards for their participation.

Fine, the government cannot surely fund all individuals going outside the country, but certainly, there is need for discretion for sportspersons going for competitions like Africa and world titles.

How does the Zimbabwean government feel when the country’s boxers sleep in squalid conditions outside the country when carrying the Zimbabwean flag? Whose name gets tarnished? That of the country, of course.

Week in week out, we also see athletes from South Africa, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco, and even Botswana, in the highly competitive Diamond League, but not a single Zimbabwean.

The last time a Zimbabwean was in that League was six or so years ago when long jumper Ngonidzashe Makusha was the star of the show, but sadly he too has now lost his way up the ladder.

Zimbabweans have failed to participate at these competitions because they do not meet the qualifying standards for such high-level competitions.

The reason is because they have not had the time and the chance to compete regionally and internationally because they cannot meet the costs due to the harsh economic climate in the country.

Regular competition makes athletes better and better and the Zimbabwean government needs to have a change of attitude with regard to funding for athletes going for international glory.

Where do we expect our athletes to get that international exposure or the chance to compare their performance against the rest of the world when they are always competing among themselves?

The authorities need to be serious about our sporting goals and our sporting ambitions. This is the time for a change.

l For your comments, views and suggestions, email mkariati@gmail.com or WhatsApp on 0773 266 779.

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