The 12-category national sports awards which took place last week were not only overshadowed by concerns of racial and tribal exclusion but there was also a presence of bitterness over the exclusion of deserving teams that excelled over the last 12 months.
The awards had a line of critics queued to give their two cents worth about the exclusion of national teams that performed well during the year, this including the senior national rugby team.
The senior national rugby team took part in the Rugby World Cup 2015, ended third at the World Rugby Nations’ Cup 2016 staged in Romania and managed to retain the African Cup of Nations this year.
The awards, which assess performances between 1 October 2015 and 1 September 2016, to determine winners, were also seen to have overlooked the national under-19 cricket team that also made history at the Junior Cricket world Cup by seeing off defending champions South Africa and finished seventh overall automatically qualifying for the next tournament in 2019, but did not receive any recognition.
The Baby Warriors won the COSAFA Under-17 in Mauritius in July this year against powerhouse, South Africa also still did not make it to the list for the glitz event.
In a night that was supposed to be all about glamour and celebration of milestone achievements of Namibian athletes, it turned out to be sour when MTC Chief of Human Capital, Tim Ekandjo stepped on the stage addressing the issue of racism, sexism and tribalism in the Namibian sport fraternity.
The awards were organised by the Namibia Sports Commission for the first time under the theme ‘’Thriving in the Namib’’ referring to the !Nara plant that grows in the Namib Desert and still survive for many years. As expected the event started an hour behind the schedule to conform to the much hyped cliché in African time.
Athletes who performed exceptional well on regional level, continental, inter-continental as well as international level were rewarded for their tireless efforts to represent the country and fly the flag high on foreign soils. The night was dominated by athletes with disabilities with their coach Michael Hamukwaya scooping Coca-Cola Coach of the Year Award, while his soldiers were given what they deserve and fought for, with Ananias Shikongo taking home the title of Sportsman of the Year with Disability.
De Wet Moolman took top honours as Sportsman of Year, fending off a stiff challenge from last year’s winner Paulus Ambunda while Beata Naigambo, a marathon runner was crowned Sportswoman of the Year.
Minister of Sport, Youth and National Service, Jerry Ekandjo, urged the public to be patient with the government on sport funding.
Ekandjo noted that, ‘’sport is faced with many challenges but despite those challenges we choose to celebrate because sport brings people together’’.
The minister also strongly advised parents of kids with disability not to hide them but take them to sport events and let them participate. ‘’Look at how the Paralympians did in Brazil? They came back with five medals outshining the abled body who came back with nothing,” he said.
The crowd was more silenced when Ekandjo touched on a moment of truth touching on the issue of racism, tribalism and sexism. He first started paying tribute to fallen heroes and heroines who fought for the country’s liberation. Departed sport heroes were also remembered including the likes of sportswriter Corry Ihuhua, soccer star Franklin April and others. A big screen showing pictures and quotes of black icons such as Nelson Mandela, Mohamend Ali, Oprah Winfrey, just to mention a few, who all fought against racism was on display at the event.
Ekandjo said even though there are so many issues that need to be addressed in sport, he wants to focus more on something that is close to his heart. “
Racism is at forefront and perpetrators should be punished to eradicate racism in sport. There cannot be racism in sport if there is no racism in society’’ Ekandjo said.
So the question is can we really completely kick out racism in sport? If we are to do this, then it should start at grassroots level by teaching kids that they are all human beings despite the difference in their skin colour. Namibians prefer to watch or play certain sport codes. Like when there is a rugby game only few blacks show up and when the Brave Warriors are playing the opposite is true. So we still have a long way to go to change the minds of our people to eradicate racism, sexism and tribalism not only in sport but society at large.
Sport should unite and bring people together not divide them, because that is the only way we can move in one direction and win. Imagine having a teammate of a different colour and think otherwise of him or her. Sport can keep youngsters off the street and distract them from doing unproductive activities like drinking alcohol and drugs, in fact sportsmen and women are always discipline and live a health life style.