The Promise of 2015 and Beyond: Sport development in Southern Africa

 

As the calendar year comes to a close, it is only proper that one looks back to the preceding 12 months to evaluate progress. This is very important, particularly in sport because 2014 was indeed a very eventful year providing lots of hope and promise of a better future for Southern Africa.

Without a shadow of doubt, perhaps the most important highlight or low point for African sport was the dismal performance of African representatives at the Fifa World Cup in Brazil. The fact that the hosts were humiliated 0-7 by Germany (a world cup record) in front of their very own fanatical home crowd is scant consolation for African football lovers.

With regard to the African Cup of Nations scheduled for Equatorial Guinea, The Southern Times Sports Forum can only congratulate the South African senior men’s football team, Bafana Bafana, for their spectacular resurgence to qualify for the event.  The draw that was undertaken recently in Malabo does not favour them in any way.  

Playing against Algeria, Ghana and Senegal will indeed provide a series of very good tests of Bafana Bafana’s resolve to challenge the heavyweights of African football. We wish them luck because sometimes in football games, it is not how well the team plays but how lucky you are with your own composure and that of your opponents as well as decisions match officials.

It goes without saying that Southern Africa is a region which is mad about football. Not only are Southern Africans looking up to Bafana Bafana to achieve the unthinkable, as they did in 1996, by winning the 2015 AFCON.  As always with game of football, you have to take things on game at a time and avoid worrying too much about your opponents.

Turning to other sport codes, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games also brought a smile on the faces of Southern Africa. The successes of South Africa and Botswana renewed once more the promise of the future. 

The achievements in Glasgow are indeed a testimony that Southern African sports people can compete with the best in the world. All what they need are decent support services provided by the various sports authorities. Now, it is no longer a question of whether the region can succeed at the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The NOCs now have to be creative in affording good training and competition opportunities as sports science support for the great number of talented athletes in the region. In this connection, COSANOC needs to play a leading role in fostering the exchange of ideas, information and experiences amongst countries of the region. The annual coaching conference organised by the South African Confederation of Sport and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) is a very useful forum for Southern Africa. This is because SASCOC has extended a standing invitation to coaches of the region to attend as way of establishing a learning community in the region for coaches.

If the rest of Southern African National Olympic Committees (NOCs) do not respond and enrich this forum, then it will be very difficult for elite sport performance in the region to develop by leaps and bounds as expected. The pursuit of modern scientific methods of coaching and sport development is vital for the very survival of elite sport as we know it in Southern Africa.

The alternative is too ghastly to contemplate.  That is why the SASCOC annual coaching conference is such an important initiative for the region.

Next year will also bring to life various continental and world championships providing platforms for Southern Africa to show-case its talent. Events such the World Athletics Championships easily come to mind. Individually, the countries of the region do not have enough resources to establishing and managing sport academy systems in line with international best practice. It is therefore only logical to pool resources in an effort to achieve greater things together.

These events to be held in 2015 are litmus tests of what both sports administrators and coaches have learnt in 2014. Obviously, mistakes will be made in 2014 but to repeat the mistakes of 2014 and others of the past is not only scandalous but criminal negligence contributing to the wastage of public funds invested in sport by various Southern African countries. Sports authorities need to provide return on investment (ROI) for the funds allocated to them for sport development and promotion. The shortage of funds is now a worn out excuse. It is like a broken record. Upholding high standards through good planning and management does not cost a fortune.

This is why 2015 is such a crucial year for Southern African sport. It is one of the important building blocks for future events such as the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro as well as the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be held in the Russian Federation

If Southern African sport authorities snooze in 2015, then the region loses. The promise of 2015 and beyond is indeed tantalising for sports lovers and athletes themselves in the region. 

Whether the sports authorities rise to the occasion in terms of world class performance management is another thing.

 It will be the difference between dreams coming true and nightmares unravelling. There is no doubt that Southern African sport lovers and nations in general are incredibly optimistic people. They obviously look forward to the future with great anticipation and enthusiasm to the promise of 2015 and beyond. They must not be disappointed!

December 2014
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