Region gears up for ANOCA U-17 Games

The games will be hosted by Anoca’s regional affiliate, the Confederation of Southern African National Olympic Committees (Cosanoc).

Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the hosts Lesotho, the 10 countries which comprise Cosanoc, will take part in the inaugural games in Maseru from the 2 to 6 October, 2006.

“The tournament is the brainchild of the new Anoca president, Lasana Palenfo of Cote d’Ivoire. In his election manifesto, he outlined his vision of enhancing sports development in Africa through the staging of regional games and so the Lesotho meeting is part of the implementation of that strategy,” explained Cosanoc secretary-general Robert Mutsauki, who is also the chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee.

He said after considering factors such as popularity within the region and in the host country, the organisers settled for five disciplines ‘ athletics, boxing, soccer, taekwondo and tennis ‘ for the inaugural games. Mutsauki explained that since the meeting is the first of its kind, they wanted to have a manageable size of disciplines to start with.

Initially planned as an under-20 event, the games were changed to under-17 to avoid duplication as the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa Zone Six committee was working on a similar meeting which has since been held in Namibia.

Mutsauki pointed out that the initial plan was, in fact, to combine forces with the Council and merge with the Namibia games but this did not prove that feasible as most of the disciplines Cosanoc wanted to host were already on the Namibia calendar. The matter was finally put to rest when ANOCA advised all its zones to host stand-alone games.

“Part of the ANOCA strategy is enhancing sporting capacity around the continent through integration. By focusing on the under-17s, we are contributing to the development of sporting talent that will then compete better at the next under-20 games as these are held every two years unlike the quadriennial ANOCA games. How this works out well for all concerned is better appreciated if you consider that these age-group tournaments are essential cogs in the production chain for the All-Africa Games and, ultimately, the Olympics. In Lesotho, we will, therefore, be planting the seed for the 2012 Olympic Games,” explained the veteran sports administrator.

Anoca has committed US$305 000 to each of its seven zones for the games. Six of the regions are working on having the games before the end of the year. Zone Seven, which comprises the Indian Ocean islands, has not yet confirmed when it will host its games.

The Anoca purse is mainly for the organisation and running of the games, with a small subsidy for each of the 10 countries. The countries then have to meet the rest of the cost of their participation.

While the organisers have set the ceiling on the size of each delegation as 72 athletes and officials, it is feared that financial constraints may hamper some efforts to fully utilise the number.

But Mutsauki said work continues apace in Maseru to ensure that those who do make it for the games will find everything ready:

“Preparations are at an advanced stage, with the organising committee in the Lesotho capital working flat out for the success of the games.”

He said to combat the scourge of age cheats that plagues many tournaments on the continent, the organisers of the Maseru games have defined the eligible age clearly. All athletes should be under 17 and must not have turned 17 by 31 December 2006 or, alternatively, all the athletes must have been born on or after the 1 January 1990.

“Apart from the passport, we also want to see the athlete’s original birth certificate or a national identity document with a photograph or some other document such as a church baptism certificate, that authenticates their date of birth,” Mutsauki added.

September 2006
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