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Friday, August 17, 2012

Africa at the London 2012 Olympic Games …. the Aftermath

The London 2012 Olympic Games are over and the postmortem analysis of how Africa performed at the games looms large.
While some nations in Africa are celebrating their first ever medal won at the Olympic Games; majority across Africa are questioning their commitment to SPORTS which happens to be the biggest social phenomena in all communities in Africa and across the globe.
The Olympic Games is one of the main barometers to measure progress in sports in any nation around the world and when the event comes around every four years it gives every country a chance to take a look in the mirror as the performance of its athletes at the Games come under scrutiny by its people and outsiders.
There is a general consensus across the board with feelers in social media that most Africans are not impressed with their individual country and the overall performance of Africa at this Olympics.
For starters the Medal Tally at this Games were very much below that of the 2008 Beijing Games where the total Tally for Africa was 40 medals while the end total for the 2012 Games is 34.
Most shocking is the performance of Nigeria (the most populous nation in Africa) which did not win a single medal at these Games while in 2008 they had a total of 4 medals. It seems like sports has sunk to a new low in Nigeria and most of Africa. This abysmal performance by Nigeria and many other African states that were allowed token representation by the IOC at the London Games is a reflection of the leaderships of these states. The poorer they performed the more reflective it is of poor overall leadership in each one of these nations beginning from the very top (Presidents). 

It begs the question do they even understand the global and economic implications of what sports can do within their societies  or do some only see sports as just something recreational (which it is in its very basic state)that kids play and not something that has a direct economic bearing on their country?
Most commendable was the tiny nation of Gabon that has taken a very aggressive approach in pushing sports to a whole different level as they won their very first ever Olympic Medal in Taekwondo, courtesy  Anthony Obame took Silver.

While it may seem that there is some progress being made in some quarters with some nations in Africa like Gabon which not only co-hosted the last edition of the African Cup of Nations the majority of Africa which exports some of the best sports talents to other lands around the world are not living up to their God given potential
South Africa had a total of six medals in London and that is a drastic improvement from 1 medal in 2008 but for many South Africans that is not good enough.
The verdict is out and many countries citizenry are pouring it on at their governments and sports officials about how disappointed they are of their lack of showing at the Games.
What happens now that every country has had a chance to look at themselves through this global lens of a sports festival. Will the status quo be maintained or will heads roll.
As far as the results from London shows, some people will have to be fired as the results show that they have not been productive in their capacities and therefore should look for work in other fields of life.
Sports Management has changed drastically in nature over the decades and if you have not adapted or stayed abreast with the way things are happening around the globe these days then you do not need to be a part of running sports in any capacity whatsoever.
Social Media has brought a whole new dimension of public opinion to the performance of every sport official and athlete. No one is exempt and they are under more scrutiny in the public domain more than ever and therefore have to perform to keep the majority satiated. 

In conclusion it is either you perform or you give way to more productive individuals in various official capacities and if African countries really want to shake of their nightmarish past of underachievement and mediocre performances beginning with what just happened in London, then they will have to take a very strong stance on having their officials deliver. Sports is now a multi trillion dollar business around the world and if you want to have sports as a contributing segment of your national economy then you will have to put a premium on positive results on your national sports apparatus.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Africans need to step up and support the growth of grassroots sports in their communities of origins

I recently read an article about a gentleman named Robbie Schulz from Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA who recently paid a visit to his girlfriend who works for an NGO in Sierra Leone, West Africa ( ). On planning his trip, Robbie decided to bring along a special gift for the children of Sierra Leone: ‘soccer balls’, a gift that the kids in Sierra Leone were thrilled to receive. You see the reason Robbie decided to bring the soccer balls was borne out of a need to do good, having been told by his girlfriend about the love of the game in the country and the lack of the basic equipment for the game, - a ball. Robbie decided to bring along the balls which he donated, and kids in Freetown, Sierra Leone, are presently enjoying this gift.
There is a lesson in Robbie’s gift for the kids in Sierra Leone and Africa at large. There are a number of Africans, both Male and Female, as well as Americans and other nationalities that are doing commendable development activities in Africa; Take for example, Kasia Muoto a resident of California, USA, who grew up in Nigeria and was selected to play for the Nigerian female soccer squad in international competitions but left to pursue her college education in the USA. Today she is the founder of a non-profit organization she runs called “We play to Win” ( ) whose primary function is to cater to young people on the continent, particularly young women, giving them social tools to succeed as human beings despite the difficult situations in which they exist. There is also Justin Forzano, the founder of the Cameroon Football Development Program who first went to Cameroon as part of a university program, taking with him some gifts of (soccer balls and sports equipment). He eventually transformed that passion into an organized activity when he created the Cameroon Football Development Program which works in partnership with a local team in Kumba, Cameroon, to promote health and development in that nation – ( ).
Although not everyone will be able to form and operate a non-profit organization, or a business that is dedicated to the development of sports on the continent, everyone can help. Donating to such organizations whose mission resonate with you or even support what we do at African Sports Media Network by subscribing to our Magazine African Sports Monthly, is one way to start ( ).

As a leader in the African sports media space, the African Sports Media Network covers sports-related activities all over the continent, and one thing we do NOT see enough of amongst our own people (indigenous Africans, or those raised on the continent), is what some of these aforementioned leaders are doing. It is high time for Africans living in the Diaspora to step up and take up the challenge of supporting local sports clubs or development efforts such as the aforementioned ones, which impact the youth in the very neighborhoods we were once part of. One might ask how. Well, - sports equipment for one, go a long way to enhance the development of grassroots sports in African nations. Giving financially is another way to enable impactful programs and activities and probably the more effective way to channel our support to other already doing the work on the ground.
The gripe about the authorities being corrupt and not concerned about the state of their nation’s sports institution, though valid, should not stop anyone from helping at the grassroots or local level. To avoid misappropriations of your gifts, learn about trusted clubs and grassroots organizations, their leaders and their track records. Study their profiles (whether through social media or otherwise) and familiarize yourselves with their mission, vision and annual accomplishments. See which ones have been accountable, and then make a move to support them after you have done your research. Do what you can. I know for most in the Diaspora, giving up about $10 (or two Starbucks lattes!) a month should not and will not hurt your overall financial outlook.
I conclude here to say that when JFK proclaimed ‘ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’, he was talking about, the need for people to step up and help other in their communities in whatever little ways they are able. Donating a few soccer balls a year or several dollars a month to an accountable local club or non-profit initiative, will go a long way in fulfilling your civic duty to your land of origin and the future of our young people – both boys and girls.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ivory Coast and Zambia playing for a healing of their Nations

Zambia’s ascent to the highest level of Football in the African Continent at the 28th edition of the African Cup of Nations brings back to memory a fateful incident that happened to the Zambian National Football squad of 1993 that died off of the Coast of Gabon when the plane they were flying in crashed into the Gulf Of Guinea shortly after takeoff from Libreville Gabon enroute to a game in Dakar and unfortunately and ironically the itinerary for that flight was scheduled for them to make their next stop in Abidjan Ivory Coast before continuing their flight to Dakar.
The crash was a tragedy of tremendous proportion that is only now coming to the fore as every media outlet covering the AFCON 2012 are printing stories on the incident or talking about it on radio and television. The Zambian people experienced a great loss that was a loss for the rest of Africa as well as the world. Tragedies where an entire team die are rare and devastating. Interestingly enough the President of the Zambian Football Association Kalusha Bwalya was the only surviving member of that team who was not on that flight from Zambia but was supposed to join the team from the Netherlands.
Today on the eve before the Finals of the African Cup of Nations in Gabon everything about that tragedy has come full circle Zambia will play in Libreville Gabon the place of the tragedy and they are being led by the only surviving member of that tragedy in Kalusha Bwalya who as I mentioned is the President of the Zambia FA today and they will be playing the team from the Country that was supposed to be their next destination. Whatever kind of metaphor this is I hope it brings some closure to Kalusha Bwalya, the Families of the Players (Wives and Children) who survived their deaths, the Zambian players on the current national squad and the people of Zambia.

Ironically as I mentioned above Zambia will be playing the Ivory Coast, the next destination on the itinerary of that team of 93 and the Ivory Coast are as well a team that are playing for the healing of their nation, which went through a brutal civil war that raged between 2002 and 2004. The loss of lives was tremendous and the war left a legacy of a divided nation that still prevails today. The national team has been instrumental in fostering détente especially in 2006 when upon qualifying for the FIFA World Cup they convinced the then President, Laurent Gbagbo to restart peace talks that had stalled and in 2007 the team played a match in the then rebel capital of Bouaké a moment that brought fighting factions together in celebration of their national pastime.
Recently in 2011 Captain of the Elephants Didier Drogba was appointed to be on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission an appointment he readily accepted. One of the undisputed facts about Didier Drogba is that he is such a patriot and its hurts him so much to see his nation go through what it went through with the war that when he was asked to serve on the commission he did not even ask any questions or doubt whether he wanted to be on the commission or not he readily gave his word and now with an opportunity to further unite the people of the Ivory Coast with winning the AFCON 2012 Trophy and help the nation heal the Elephants will do whatever it takes to bring home the trophy when they take on the Chipopolo boys of Zambia.
Both Nations are deserving of a healing and we hope that whoever loses finds it within themselves that getting to the finals alone is consolation enough to help with the healing process that both these nations need.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

One on one with The “Mandedza Express”; Ngoni Makusha

Since the retirement of Frankie Fredericks of Namibia and Olusoji Fasuba of Nigeria providing a glimmer of brilliance in his performance when he set the new African record back in 2006 of 9.85 sec, the African sprint scene had gone barren save for Gerald Phiri of Zambia who has been very consistent in running in the low 10’s until he in fact recently set a new Zambian national record in the 100 meters when he clocked 10.06sec breaking the 35 year old record at the Texas Relays in Austin Texas earlier this year. But all of a sudden Africa is thrust into the glare with the performance of Ngonidzashe Makusha of Zimbabwe whom we have dubbed the ‘Mandedza Express’ when he ran a 9.97 sec in the 100 meters at the ACC Championships and then explodes for a 9.89 seconds performance at the NCAA Outdoor Nationals in Iowa breaking the NCAA record set by Ato Boldon of Trinidad and the Zimbabwean national record that he had set earlier when he ran a 9.97 Sec at the ACC Championships.
Ngoni Makusha came to the USA specifically to Florida State University (FSU) on an athletic scholarship. Hailing from the suburb of Chitungwiza outside of Harare Zimbabwe where he attended High School at Mandedza High School. Makusha has always shown promise from a rather young age. His main focus has always been the Long Jump but as one would expect the speed that he had developed in training for the long Jump carried over into the 100 meters in fact after he shattered the NCAA 100 meters record he was compared to the likes of Track and Field legends such as Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens; athletes who were both long jumpers and sprinters. Ngoni has a bright future ahead of himself and with an accomplished Coach and fellow Zimbabwean by his side in Ken Harnden he is almost guaranteed success in his career I said almost because his only limitation now would only be himself.
There have been quite a number of articles already on Makusha and having done a bit or research before piecing this article together we decided to dub him ‘The Mandedza Express’ a title borrowed from an article written by Godknows Matarutse of the Zimbabwe Herald based on his rise to fame from his school days at Mandedza High where it all took off for Ngoni.

After Makusha broke the NCAA and Zimbabwean national record I caught up with him and we spoke at length about his performance and his future and here is that interview;

ASM: First of all what part of Zimbabwe are you from
Ngoni: I am from Chitungwiza; it is one of the small cities just outside of Harare
ASM: How long have you been in the USA?
Ngoni: I have been here for like four years now
ASM: And all this time you have been with the Seminoles at FSU right?
Ngoni: Yes, I just came here for school at Florida State University

ASM: You got recruited to compete for FSU…. am I right?
Ngoni: Yes, yes they recruited me to come join the Track team
ASM: Tell us how you got recruited
Ngoni: well I was competing in Zimbabwe and doing very well and then I went to the Junior World Championships, the All-African Games and many other meets and Coach noticed me and he happens to be from Zimbabwe too and that’s how it all started
ASM: So were you running at the time or Long Jumping when you got recruited, because the one thing that really sticks out about your career is your Long Jump which is pretty phenomenal and that’s how we got to notice you while doing daily media coverage here at African Sports Media Network we noticed that you were putting out these spectacular jumps when you competed but were you always competing in the 100 meters as well all this time?

Ngoni: I was doing both I did both the Long Jump and the 100 meters but when I came to College I started focusing more on the Long Jump but I have always been a sprinter and a long Jumper.

ASM: Now you have been quite dominant this Season at the Long Jump you are the current world leader in the event, you even set a new national Record for Zimbabwe at 8.40meters, what would you attribute your success to in the Long Jump, is it your Speed or your Technique
Ngoni: ….hmmmm….. I think my speed has been very critical to my long jump because I need that velocity to carry me and so I feel that my speed plays a big part in my Long Jump
ASM: Tell us what your personal goals on the Long Jump are…. I know you like other athletes dream of Olympic Gold and all but tell us what your end game is towards the Long Jump
Ngoni: My Personal Goal for the Long Jump is just like the 100 meters for me, I want to do good I want to be one of the best Long Jumpers in the world maybe go on to win a Gold Medal at the Olympics and other major international meets.

ASM: Mentioning the 100meters again; you now own two national records for Zimbabwe, tell us what you think about breaking those records and what that means to you
Ngoni: If you look at these record before I broke them the NCAA 100 meters record was held by Ato Boldon and for me to go out there and break his record it is something that makes me feel good and that I am blessed and I feel like I have been highly favored just to be in this position.

ASM: This season you have come out blazing in the 100 meters capturing the world’s attention with a 9.97sec performance at the ACC meet and now a 9.89 sec at the NCAA Outdoors meet in Iowa in the process you have set a new National Record for Zimbabwe and an NCAA record as well tell us how do you feel about all this developments for you
Ngoni: well I have decided to go pro so I can compete at the next level
ASM: With those times obviously you are ready to go head to head with the Usain Bolts of the World right?
Ngoni: Yes I feel like that’s where I am headed now …… and I feel that I am ready to compete with the best athletes of the world
ASM: You now have the fourth fastest 100 meters time ever ran by an African, after Frankie Fredericks of Namibia (9.86sec), Olusoji Fasuba of Nigeria who is the African Record holder at the 100 meter with a time of 9.85sec and then Francis Obikwelu a Nigerian (9.86sec) who is now a Portuguese citizen how do feel about being in the class of these great names and do you feel you will ever break the African Record
Ngoni: I am not really that kind of a person who chases records but obviously breaking records is important in any sports but it not really my main focus and my main focus is really to go out there and get better as an athlete and if I end up breaking a record then that’s fine by me and I feel like I can run faster and if I improve and I run fast enough for a new African Record then I will be thankful

ASM: Talking about the African record… we have three major events coming in the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Daegu South Korea, the All-African Games in Maputo Mozambique and then the London 2012 Olympic Games, now what are you plans in competing in these three events coming up
Ngoni: uhh… my plan is to go out there and compete just like any other athlete but I don’t really know what my Coach has in store for me yet and I am still waiting on my Coach to make that decision and see where we go from here. It has been a long season already for me and we will see if we do get to go to the World Championships and then the All- African Games and about the All African Games I really want to compete in that meet

ASM: Okay that is really a breath of fresh air coming from a top performer like you, because you know we are usually missing out on the top performers at the All African Games which is Africa’s Olympics so it will be great to have you come out there and see if you can come through with a meet record. It will really be great for the games in Maputo
Now what’s your perspective on the 2012 London Olympic Games how do you plan on preparing for the summer games next year?
Ngoni: The Olympics are always a big event and athletes always come out with surprising performances and this year so far as far as the sprints goes there have been quite a number of fast sprinters out there and so I believe that the Olympics are going to be quite spectacular
ASM: You guys (Zimbabwe) have a strong stable of sprinters out there, quite a number of you have been running in the low 10’s or high 9’s what do you think your chances are as a team in the 4 x 100 meters relays to medal in the major events like the World Championships or the Olympics
Ngoni: We are looking good right now but the relays are quite a technical event; you can have the fastest guys in the world but still not be able to get the stick around. I do think we have a very strong team and I feel like if we work very well together we can win the 4 X 100meter relay at the All-African Games to start with.
ASM: So which one of your Zimbabwean teammates do you train with at this time in Florida?
Ngoni: Right now I train with Brian Dzingai the Zimbabwean record holder in the 200 meters and Paul Madzivire a freshman, he just came here from Zimbabwe he is a long Jumper as well and the Coach Ken Harnden, he is also from Zimbabwe those are the only Zimbabwean I know of down here in Florida the other Zimbabweans training here in the States are Gabriel Mvumvure he trains in Indiana and Lewis Banda he is in Texas but only four of us are here in Florida
ASM: I believe that when it comes time for you guys to put a team together it will make sense for you guys to meet up in one spot and train together for a while before a major meet what do you think.
Ngoni: Yes I think it will be very convenient for us to meet out here in Tallahassee Florida to train together we have nice weather, nice facilities and a Coach who is Zimbabwean so I think it will make sense to do meet here in Tallahassee Florida.
ASM: Talking about Brian Dzingai the 200 meters record holder for Zimbabwe, you have been compared to legendary athletes like Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens who also went out and did the 200 meters event do you ever plan on trying the 200 meters
Ngoni: No no ……. I don’t have the intention of ever trying the 200 meters we have never talked about that with my Coach but who knows what the future holds maybe next season I will try it who knows and see how it turns out.
ASM: Now as far as African Sprinting goes, you guys are making Africa proud, when you broke the NCAA 100 meters record recently you ran against another African in that race in Gerald Phiri of Zambia who goes to Texas A&M, what do you think of Gerald.
Ngoni: Gerald is very good Athlete, he is very talented, he is fast, he has posted some very good times out here he ran a couple of 10.0 in one competition recently, I really respect him you know and am happy that we Africans are out there showing others in the world that we can compete with the rest of the world I was very proud to see another African next to me on the starting line at the NCAA finals
ASM: Now as far as prospects goes towards the Olympics Zimbabwe has a Golden Girl in Kirsty Coventry the swimmer now we are looking at you to pick up the torch as far as the 100 meters and the long jump goes to bring home the Gold for Zimbabwe and for Africa I know it’s a lot to carry a lot of peoples hopes but what do you think about people pinning their hopes on you
Ngoni: Hmmm I think it comes with what I do so I don’t think it’s any pressure on me. I have shown that I can perform at the level of other World Class Athletes. So I don’t think I feel that people are putting any pressure on me People have to understand that when it comes to medals it is not something you say you are going to go out there and get a medal just like that when the competition level is so tough these days but I think it is a blessing from God when you do win one because you have to prepare right just as everyone else has prepared equally. For me I will take my time to do what I do and go out there and perform and when that day comes if it happens it happens but I believe it’s up to me to do the hard work and go out there and perform

ASM: When you broke the 100 meters record did you get any calls from the Sports Officials in Zimbabwe to congratulate you?
Ngoni: No I have not received any calls from the sports officials in Zimbabwe yet …. I have not spoken to anyone yet
ASM: Do you follow the local news on the internet and is there any local coverage of your running in Zimbabwe that you are aware of
Ngoni: yeah there have been a couple articles out there which are very important you know. Media coverage is very important because people need to be aware that there is a Zimbabwean doing what other are doing out here in the world. Because a lot of people in Zimbabwe and Africa look up to what other countries you know, they follow the Jamaicans or the Americans and they need to know that they have Zimbabweans and other Africans out here who are equally as good.
ASM: Well we have been doing our best here at African Sports Media Network to cover you guys and we do report all daily sports stories on our daily site AFRICAN SPORTS TV in fact if you check out the site we reposted the story about you going pro on African Sports TV and we want people to know about what you guys do and appreciate what you do and this interview we are doing will be on the Spotlight Section on African Sports TV and on our Magazine AFRICAN SPORTS MONTHLY .
We are happy to cover you and we will continue to do so, we appreciate you giving us the time to do so and hopefully one of these days you will be a gold medalist
Ngoni: No problem.

Friday, March 5, 2010


What is the condition of sports in Africa today?....The African sports world is fraught with a myriad of problems. They range anywhere from lack of organization to lack of facilities and most significantly lack of funding and initiatives.

For the last 20 years we have seen the effects of these problems manifest themselves in what one would compare to the "Brain Drain" effect on Africa......  The siphoning of African elite sporting talents to advanced nations mostly in Europe, the Middle East and other nations around the world, through various enticements like; better standards of living, better training programs and training facilities and access to endorsements and big sports contracts.

Notable examples would be Sierra Leonean born Eunice Barber now a French citizen who represented France in international athletics Competitions, Nigerian Born Francis Obikwelu now of Portugal and teenage soccer sensation, Ghanaian born Freddy Adu now of the USA and very many others. Most, if not all professional African soccer stars, play in the European professional leagues.

Is this a problem for developing African nations?  For sure it is a debatable topic all by itself. There are pros and cons to this issue like there are to many aspects of life and I believe one should not rush to judgment and castigate these athletes in any negative light. The corrupt environment from which some of these athletes hail from, is a condition that would stifle the growth to prominence of any athlete around the world. On another hand athletes who don't return to invest and help to improve sports or other facets of life in their land of origin after their acquisition of wealth, know how and connections is also an issue.

We have seen the positive impact that athletes who have achieved at the highest level, can have when they do show concern for their country of origin and return to help. The NBA's Dikembe Mutombo; with the help of fellow NBA athletes and the American Corporate Community built a $30million modern hospital in the Congo, (his homeland) and named it after his deceased mother.When athletes show concern like Mutombo it surely helps to change  the culture of irresponsibility and transform any community and country around Africa.

The issue of 'organization' in African Sports is in my opinion the most prevalent and urgent of all these the problems plaguing sports in Africa.

Without proper planning and execution of sporting events, development projects and management within any organization, club, governing body or national body, sports becomes a non factor within any society.

African sports governing bodies, governmental and non-governmental are seriously lacking in organizational and managerial abilities. Many a time most of these bodies are fraught with the problems of corruption and infighting, and these are issues that will paralyzes any organization.
We have and continue to see the total collapse of entire sports leagues and competitions in many African nations because of these issues.

A lack also of the development of rising national sports talents some of whom eventually end up giving up hope of ever making it or if fortunate gets seen by some international sports scouts that arranges for their eventual migration overseas, is one thing I also believe strangles the development of sports in most African nation.

The critical questions that should be asked here are; what is a comprehensive national solution that any and all African nations should implement to exacerbate these problems. One of the things I have also noticed is that there are no grassroots sports development program for most African nations.
  • Sports should be developed from the ground up, from elementary school to the highest institution of learning.
  • Local leagues and competitions should be encouraged and sponsored by resident international and local companies in each nation.
If the tiny island of Cuba can be such a sporting superpower in the world why are gigantic African nations so lacking.

As far as the issue of sporting Facilities go, this has always been the biggest cancer for most if not for all African nations. Many nations today can only boast of national stadiums that are 30 and 40 years old with no new plans or projects in sight to replace them.
Some have been condemned outrightly as venues of international competitions by FIFA and other international governing sports bodies. Why are there no plans to replace these obsolete structures after 30 to 40 years of collecting revenues from these facilities...... well your guess is as good as mine.
The thousand pound gorilla in the room here folks is ultimately 'corruption', lack of accountability and proper management. Sports is one of the biggest income generators in the world so why are African nations not tapping into this revenue jackpot.

Addressing the problems facing sports and investing heavily in it pays dividends and instead of always looking for handouts African nations like we all believe and agree on needs to start developing and utilizing boths its human and natural resource.
Starting from the very basics developing sports in any nation has to start from the ground up but with a lack of the apropriate infrastructure and organization in place to do that how would we ever elevate sports in most african nations to international standards. One of the most prominent things you would notice in most schools and institutions of learning in Africa is the lack of a sports field or facility of any kind. This problem should be addressed and remedied by instituting a law that should require any and all schools to make adequate provisions for an athletic facility on campus and Physical education should be a lot more properly planned and organized to be result oriented other than just have the kids run and jump around without a purpose.

Funding should be addressed at the legislative level to invest in sports and provide an environment for athletes to train without hindrance which will allow them to maximize their potentials. Overall African nations need to take a deep introspective look at what could help elevate theirs nation to the next level thereby fulfilling their obligations to national development and their citizenry.