A call to arms…and feet, and hearts and minds

The idea of community, state, even nation-building through sport has taken on new significance over the past 20 years as millions upon millions more individuals play sports and/or fans of sports, the business of sports has become a multi-billion dollar global enterprise, and mega events, and even a collection of smaller events, have been behind increases in facility and infrastructure development, increased tourism, and locale-based marketing.

All of these factors have begun to move citizens, business people and government officials to consider how sports can play a part in their development. South Africa, with its hosting of the 2010 World Cup is a prime example of that. The work preparing for the global event and the attention being heaped upon the country are looked at as having long-term benefits.

Of course, when your neighbor starts to do well, there is a chance you may start to get a little jealous. No matter if it is the neighbor on your street, in the next office over at work, or the country bordering you to the south. And Botswana, is such a neighbor.

And in this case, it may not be so much jealousy but rather the recognition that the country can try to replicate some of what is happening in South Africa.

We present here commentary from Mr. Aubrey Lute, the editor at The Botswana Gazette, who implores his countrymen, especially those in government, to see the opportunity that is there for Botswana through sport and more importantly, to act upon it.

Revamp youth and sport

Written by EDITOR
Government has shown an attitude that is lethargic and somewhat arrogant, many a time very ignorant in its approach of sports matters including international ones.Botswana continues to be the only country in the world in which sport is only played for scores, it is played to determine who wins a match or who is superior to the other.

Sport has not been viewed as a career opening avenue, has never been seen as a potential employer, despite the millions which notably the likes of Somerset Gobuiwang, Ernest Molome, and Nicholas Zakhem have ploughed into the game.

Their predecessors notably McLean Letshwithi, Geoffrey MayGillip and Rashid Chopdat had also done the same during their tenures.

It is with deep regret and disappointment that the status quo remains unchanged, it looks like there is no volition in Government together with the private sector to fully activate sport into something that can create employment, an avenue through which poverty can be tackled, an opportunity for the disadvantaged youth to become superstars and earn an income.

Today, Didier Drogba is a hero in Ivory Coast not only for his soccer exploits, but for his social responsibility programme which includes a huge water relief system which he put in place after he became a super star.

Nwanko Kanu’s Heart Foundation has managed to revive hopes and rejuvenate sickly lives in Nigeria while Lucas Radebe continues to make a difference in the lives of many across Africa through his wide network of social responsibility programmes.

The corporate world would be insane to come on board while Government, which is our legal guardian, is not interested in sports.
It is high time Government fully played a role in the development of sport, not because of public pressure but because it is a niche through which government could develop the nation and its economy.

For example, the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa will develop South Africa in its entirety; today the stadia built in South Africa for this project thus far are only rivaled by Wembley and Allianz Arena stadia respectively.

The road system in place would now be equal to that of Europe or even better than some parts of Europe while the Gautrain would probably take forever for any African country to have.

The proceeds that the tourism sector in South Africa would get would be huge, the number of jobs created by this World Cup especially for blacks is also very high – this would not have been possible if South Africa was not hosting the World Cup.

As broadcasting becomes sophisticated and more developed, SABC will continue to dominate, dictate and design the continent while South Africa’s supremacy will also continue to threaten even the First World.

South Africa would continue to be Africa’s spokesperson in all respects from minerals, sport, defence, health to any matter that is of international interest.

The Botswana Government should come up with long-term solutions to the problems, which make sport a non-issue.

It must be part of our socialisation that sport is  important, not only can it bring you overnight wealth and recognition, it is also important for the health of an individual.

Kids growing up must know that it is not a problem to choose sport at school as a career, that sport is good and is not for the so-called socially disadvantaged kids, that it is not for slow learners as many people have mistakenly associated it with.

Government must understand that clubs either rugby, soccer, tennis or softball, have created jobs thereby taking youth off the streets while these men have also played a role in entertaining this nation, also created employment for our youth.

This is wherein the private sector comes, not as donors but as equal partners in a national project of development of sport, transformation of sport into an economic activity, revenue contributor, and health component and employment opportunity.

It is high time we reconstructed all systems in place which are not working, revamped the spirits of the nation, rejuvenated disgruntled youth and dealt away with lackadaisical attitudes, pragmatism starts now, theory into the rubbish bin, I urge you.

To see the full article at The Gazette’s website, please click here.