The sports community, especially football, is not happy because the game died the day Jerry Ekandjo was appointed the minister. While it is true that Fifa does not allow football to mix with politics, honestly speaking Fifa would not have been angry had Ekandjo been proactive in helping the football fraternity to get sponsorship.
The latest blow to the football is the Under-17 team’s failure to compete at this year’s Cosafa cup. It is even sadder that they will not just fail to compete but to defend the title they hold. The Cosafa cup championships are set for Mauritius between 21 to 30 July this year. Namibia won the 2016 Cosafa under-17 title after a 3-1 penalty shootout with South Africa.
They had drawn one-all against Mauritius in the ﬁnal match. But again saddest is the fact that even when these youth brought home the trophy, there were no rewards. Most of them, there is no doubt, believed that the future would deliver those awards. As it is now, that future is bleak and the prospect of any awards coming has faded. It is like wiping out a whole generation in one gesture.
Sports and football in particular has been keeping the youth along the narrow path. With it gone, the youth will have no other way to survive apart from resorting to crime. The Namibia Foot Association has no money and said they are just any other caring Namibian saddened by the whole ﬁasco. Frans Mbidi, the NFA president, said it is a great pity for this to happen and that people need to face reality and do what is possible.
Unbelievable, one would say because the minister who should care more or even pretend to care is nowhere to be found. It is obviously clear that Ekandjo has no interest in sports as long as he spends his time dozing in the National Assembly.
Ekandjo is ﬁ ne just as long as the affected youth are not his children whose future and lives he has to worry much about. He is ﬁ ne just as long as he holds his position and wait for retirement or another shot at the Swapo Party vice presidency again. It is okay to say that the government is to blame for the whole gamut of problems bedevilling the sports fraternity today but it is also right to say that any concerned minister would stand up and be heard.
This is not happening because Ekandjo has gone past the sporting age and would rather have done, maybe, well as a veterans’ minister instead of him holding this critical position that demands a person who cares and understands the issues at stake. One good example of a good sports minister is the former South African minister Fikile Mbalula who spent his tenure rallying behind athletes and encouraging them to put the country high up on the map.
In 2016, Mbalula took a decision to ban South African rugby, cricket, netball and athletics from bidding for major international sporting events until they transformed according to a 2015 memorandum to agree to transform South African sport along racial and gender lines and include more people with disabilities in their structures.
He speciﬁcally revoked the privilege of Athletics South Africa (ASA), Cricket South Africa (CSA), Netball South Africa (NSA) and South African Rugby (SARU) to host and bid for major and mega international tournaments in the Republic of South Africa as a consequence of the aforementioned federations, not meeting their own set transformation targets with immediate effect. This decision could potentially jeopardise South African Rugby’s decision to bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup as the deadline for unions to conﬁrm their intent to tender a bid is June 2016. Fikile was always present whenever a team returned from a competition and would make sure that his presence has been felt. One notable example was when he welcomed the Paralympic team at the airport in September last year. Fikile said then:
• As much as we love Usain Bolt‚ we have many of our own Bolts in South Africa.
• Our Paralympians are a bunch of winners‚ not a bunch of losers.
• I want to repeat that athletes should graduate from driving small cars to driving big cars - Lamborghinis... It is not the exclusive right of criminals to drive big cars. I want athletes to be those role models. Of course, Fikile was not always there when the teams had won. In 2015, the Springboks lost to Japan in the World Rugby Cup in England.
A disappointed Mbalula said: “To our Rugby coach please lead our team, they must represent us and make us proud. Mr Heyneke Meyer and your team please represent South Africa and make us proud. What I saw yesterday was not the Springboks I know. I phoned the coach and I told him ‘we are a nation of ﬁghters’. Next game I want to see the Springboks otherwise they will be nothing else but a bunch of losers, who failed to represent the country.” This has never happened here and one can bet that it will never happen.
Maybe this is because some ministries need to be headed by people who understand the people they are supposed to serve. There is no doubt that the sports and youth ministry needs a person who has a history of sports or someone who has empathy with and for the youth. All these are not part of Ekandjo’s body politic. He could be a father or a grandfather, but that has not made him a good representative of the youth and the sporting fraternity. It is understandable the economy is on its knees now but that should not send Ekandjo to sleep.
He must be on his feet pushing for the cause of the youth and the sporting fraternity. At times like these, a word of encouragement for the affected sportspersons would sufﬁce just like a child would understand and forgive a parent who explains to them the source of the food shortage in the home.
Likewise, a parent who will resort to hiding and subterfuge can never be understood by his children when there is a problem in the house. Maybe those who said that a ﬁsh starts to rot from the head were not wrong – for this is what has happened with Namibian sports.