Twenty-eight years of independence and we have not outgrown the culture of colonial sports. We still boast non-competitive development teams. Athletes run the best times against themselves, save for boxing and soccer.
Namibia has since the legacy of Frank Fredericks not produced a track and field athlete of international standing. In fact, Frank was not even produced by independent Namibia because the United Nations Security Council Resolution 435 found him running the world to pieces.
It is instructive to pause and recognise the contribution that boxing has registered over the years. As we speak, The Hitman Moses has decided to bow out of boxing. Moses has made us proud on so many occasions and in fact his record says that during his career he won 40 bouts and lost 4 only.
This is a wonderful foundation for any home and as we congratulate him for this glorious achievement, we must equally bow our heads to the sterling performance of the manager of champions, Nestor Tobias. He was consistent and had remained single-minded in grooming his boxers.
Yesterday I was doing my regular morning trot around the soccer pitch at the Katutura Sports Complex. A little girl ran to me and wrapped herself around my neck. This was Tjipekapora Herunga.
We hugged and kissed and when I wondered when she would return to Jamaica where she had been stationed for several years as an athlete on a funded program, Tjipee told me that she decided to come back and train from home as she normally competes better when she trains at home.
Her partner and longtime friend Globin Majova was also back for the same reason. Tjipee’s program was waiting and we could not talk long, save for exchanging contact details.
I had landed accidentally in the management of athletics the same way I had accidentally landed in the management of soccer, Black Arica (BA) in particular. There was a liberation support meeting organised at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Katutura, at which meeting Meekulu Helvi Kondombolo was scheduled to speak.
Meekulu could not travel to Windhoek and the meeting was cancelled. At the same time, a meeting of Black Africa was taking place at Immanuel Shifidi School, just next to the church and I walked over. The meeting was destined to arrest the crisis that was stagnating the club and the next thing I headed my name on the microphone.
Daniel Tjongarero was proposing me for chairman of the club. And so, the next eight years saw us pulling BA up through the paces, to be the team to beat in Namibia’s football.
My son, Seun Karupa, was a vocational instructor at Augustineum High School and at the same time a track athlete. I became his manager and in no time, a number of his fellow athletes requested to join in this exercise. When Seun retired from running I committed him to a series of rigorous coaching clinics and he later became a good athletics coach.
In this way, “The Winners Athletics Club” was born with Seun as coach and me as manager and we assembled a number of Youngsters to hit the ground running.
That is how the crowd of Tjipee Herunga, Uakuna Rukero, Lavinia Haitope, Kenneth Njembo, Basilius Karupu and others joined in and we had an exciting if carefree experience.
It is during this experience that I gained first hand insight on the management of sport and developed my own philosophy with regard to sport management. I looked at countries as small as Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica and others, who are world class in athletics and wondered what is it that they are doing that we are not doing.
I realised that our sport management leaves much to desire and as it were, serves as disincentive to the professional development of our individual athletes. Already at the time, Lavinia, Globin and Tjipee were on the athletics national team. I observed a trend where the national team would take Tjipee to Botswana and she would tumble in performance to sport number three. Twice The Winners Club took the same Tjipee to Botswana, to run against the same athletes and she excelled.
Then the Namibian national team was to participate in the All African Games in Algiers, Algeria. I told the sports director and the minister of sports, latter at the time my brother John Mutorwa that, Tjipee would run in the finals if her regular coach from The Winners Club travelled with her.
Evidently this was regarded as humour. Government refused to pay for Seun to accompany Tjipee. The Winners Club advanced about N$30 000 and the coach travelled along. Fortunately, the Chef de Mission, my brother John Walters, agreed that Seun be accredited and stay in the athlete’s village.
Tjipee went through the quarterfinals, semi-finals and ran in the 800 meter finals in Algiers and that was the last competition that she ran at that level, and the first and last time that a first-time Namibian athlete ran in the finals of any international competition.
So, when the Jamaica initiative was conceived and we read that our children were to go to Jamaica, I knew that this nation was bound to invest in the desert because I was convinced then as I am today, that our athletes can run their best times from Windhoek, Gobabis or Ongwediva.
So when I saw Tjipee back at the very place from where Seun and I had groomed her to run in the finals of the All Africa Games a good ten years ago, as it were, trying to reinvent her career now at the age of 30, I became emotional and felt guilty for the fact that as a state we have knowingly sacrificed the careers of these kids when we had an opportunity to groom them to professionalism with minimal resources. The question is, shall we ever learn?
New Era Reporter
2018-10-24 09:16:10 8 months ago