…dismisses ‘all-white’ teams narrative
The sport fraternity has been under the spotlight over the week with sport enthusiasts putting across questions to what, in their view, appeared to be an ‘all-whites’ selected teams for the ongoing youth games.
A team of about 200 athletes competing in 15 different sport codes are representing Namibia at the third African Youth Games that started in the Algerian capital, Algiers this week. The Games serve as a qualifier for the Olympic Youth Games in Argentina in October and expectations are high that Namibia will be well represented in Buenos Aires.
During the send-off ceremony last week, sport critics weighed in on what they perceived to be a team dominated by one race and questioned the lack of black participants. The country will be represented on 15 sport codes, namely fencing, archery, athletics, boxing, cycling, equestrian, gymnastics, hockey, karate, rugby, swimming, tennis, table tennis, triathlon and wrestling. The boxing team had to pull out on the last minutes.
Although admitting that there is a need to push sport codes out of the central areas to allow diverse participation, the Namibia Sports Commission chief administrator Freddy Mwiya said selections are made on the availability of competitive athletes, which narrows the pool only to absorb a few in some sport codes.
“Instead of focusing on the final product, which is the team that people so much criticize, let us look at the raw production sites.
The structure already from the ground is not welcoming for the participation of everyone,” he said.
Sport heads have long called for integration and inclusivity in the sport fraternity.
However, financial support for these sentiments has always come short to the implementation.
Pundits have also thrown in allegations that sports, especially international participation has become only for those with deep pockets.
“It is not even about money. We must look into measures of opening up already existing structures to everyone.
The structure from on the ground should be the ones to push for integration and at the moment, they are not open to allow our athletes from the informal settlements to take part,” said Mwiya.
The line ministry has over the years echoed the integration sentiments and a chunk of the ministry’s budget have been dedicated to infrastructure development in the regions. Minister Erastus Uutoni however feel the ministry and private stakeholders could do more.
“Before we complain about what we have, let us put our focus in getting the sport codes in the regions. I for example would like to see a rugby team from Kunene, Zambezi region and the south. Every Namibian child need to participate. We understand that some sport codes like swimming are expensive but we need to look at way to get interested children there,” he said.
With the newly approved Sport Reward Policy now approved, Uutoni expressed concerns that should nothing be done with regards to sport integration, recipients of excellence from this policy will only be athletes from the central regions.
“If some sport codes are not in the regions, we will only be rewarding people from the same region and circle,” he said.
At the previous African Youth Games in Gaborone, Botswana four years ago, Namibia finished 10th overall out of 42 African nations, with a total of 25 medals (four gold medals, 11 silver and 10 bronze). Egypt was the overall winner with 89 medals in total and 44 gold, followed by South Africa with 93 medals and 41 gold, and Nigeria with 41 medals and 19 gold.
This year, the ministry has forked out about N$1 million for the delegation participating in the games. Accommodation costs are fully funded by the host organizing nation.