National awards vital for sport

We have heard stories of people who find themselves in such depths that they see no way out of, tying their ties (now that is some construction!) together to form a rope which they then loop into a noose, tie one end over a beam and the other round their neck to end what they would have declared to be an irrevocably miserable existence. It is said that suicide is the sincerest form of self-criticism. But does it have to come to that, my friends? Look, always remember that every glass that you see as half-empty is in fact half full! Remember too that even the longest day comes to an end. And that it is darkest before dawn. Now, did I really write that? Even after my neighbour was robbed last week and the thieves decided to do that at dawn as if I had talked to them? But to return to the necktie: the British Medical Association has called on doctors to stop wearing that piece of clothing because there are fears it could contribute to the spread of deadly germs such as Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). It is said that tests on doctors’ ties in an orthopaedic unit in Sussex, England, revealed the presence of germs associated with patients’ wounds. Apparently, it is not just doctors who could spread the fatal bugs. This because anyone else who wears a tie may touch it, may drop soup or some such on it and just attempt an on-the-spot cleansing job and then still proceed to wear the same tie several times before it is sent for laundry. Too true, that! So all of us neck-tie wearers are all potential killers. It is a chilling thought. Good! Let us now proceed to tell our bosses. Let us also spread this message to all and sundry because society, especially our society, is so judgemental on matters dress. I mean, to be refused to enter a place because you do not have a tie? To be viewed favourably for a post or some such because you have a tie? People! And talking of judgement: the Cascade Annual National Sports Awards (ANSA) ceremony is on this Friday. Now, that is big. ANSA is Zimbabwe’s premier sporting show. Off-field that is. ANSA are to Zimbabwe sport what the Oscars are to the international film industry. It is just one night, but that is just symbolic. On that night, we celebrate the best, nay and even the worst, of Zimbabwe sport. On that night we salute the performers and the performances that have enthralled the nation for a year. On that night we also salute those behind the scenes- the coaches, the match officials, the managers, the club owners, the administrators and the sponsors. Going through that list, though, one feels that some of these people are not so much behind the scenes as beside them! But I digress. As, in fact, I am wont to do. How appropriate then that such a big night be graced by big personalities. Unfortunately, former world track queen Maria Mutola has excused herself from being guest of honour, citing commitments. It is the second time she has been invited and the second time she has excused herself. But the organisers, the Sports and Recreation Commission, should not give up. She should still be invited some other time. Some other time, the Maputo Express will be on time. Over and above her undoubted stature, the Mozambican has a special status. A local who rose from next door to conquer the world, in the process conquering all those prejudices, trials and tribulations that lie liberally on the path of the girl child from our part of the world. Now, retired Zimbabwe tennis star Byron Black is expected to be the guest. He too has what it takes. He will be able to inspire the young to aspire and perspire for it, and all of us to perspire before we expire. Last year, four-time Olympic silver medalist and one of the most consistent 200 metre runners the sporting world has ever known, Frank Fredericks of Namibia, graced the sixth edition of the annual sporting awards showpiece. In that persuasive manner that is Frankie, he chided fellow athletes who reach the top and, upon reaching the heights, get lost in the heady atmosphere of achievement, forgetting the ladders (fellow performers, other colleagues, the coaches, administrators and other sports authorities) that would have helped them in their ascendancy. Proffering himself as an example, he challenged those among us who believe the odds are stacked against them. Standing there being gloried for his feats, standing there after speaker after speaker had clothed him with salutation and felicitation, he bared his soul metaphorically disrobing and so, in that process, demystified achievement thus making it accessible for any and everyone. Yes, an event of this magnitude will have flaws. But I am not apologising for it in advance! Yes, an event of this magnitude and which seeks to assume such reach will have critics. But then only at trees bearing fruit do people throw stones. And so criticism comes with the turf. There are some that have questioned the ANSA selection criteria. The organizers need to engage these critics. They need to interrogate themselves vis-‘-vis allegations that some of those nominated should not have been. They need to be honest and severe with themselves and run through the nomination list with the iron comb of integrity and credibility. They need to dissect the list for merit. If not this year then certainly next year. There are also concerns over the nomination. Currently, all the national sports associations (NSAs) affiliated to the SRC are eligible to enter nominees for the awards ‘ a process some have denounced as fraught with flaws. The critics say some NSAs embellish their nominees’ entries, sometimes recording better performances than those actually achieved or sometimes conjuring up results altogether. The judges do check on the entries but that too has its own flaws. For one, not all results are posted on the internet! But none of the critics has suggested that ANSA be done away with it. Therein lies the value of the awards.

March 2006
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