On the ball:Take games to the people

THIS past weekend there were buses and coaches of all shapes and colours with a wide range of emblems. Some of these were luxury coaches while others were those commonly called “chicken buses”.

Report by Innocent Kurwa

The buses and coaches shared one thing in common — they all belong to tertiary learning institutions in the country and these comprise technical colleges, polytechnics, teachers’ training colleges, agricultural training colleges and universities. They were in Bulawayo for the annual sports competitions for tertiary institutions and the winners in the various categories will represent the country at the continental African sports competitions for tertiary institutions. The competitions covered a wide range of sporting disciplines and the main centres were Bulawayo Polytechnic and the National University of Science and Technology.

However, were it not for the numerous buses and coaches as well as the congestion in Leopold Takawira Avenue on Friday, as thousands of students marched to the Central Park to mark the beginning of the competitions, this mammoth event would have passed unnoticed – if in fact, it did not do exactly that as, many people one would expect to know about such events did not know anything about it. I got to know about it upon asking a colleague who lectures at a local tertiary institution after getting delayed in the traffic jam the march along Leopold Takawira caused!

The question then is, why the little publicity to such an important competition? There was, apparently, some small piece in one of the local newspapers about the games and that was all. The people that organised these games left a lot to be desired.

Publicity should have started well before the games, as a build-up to the arrival of the several tertiary institutions in Bulawayo in order to arouse public interest in these games. Surely some people, many in fact, would have loved to watch their relatives and friends competing in these games and their attendance would have added glamour and colour to the games.

The organisers should also have found venues that attract a lot of interest from the general public. White City Stadium, for example, has track and field facilities, and even a cycling track although largely not maintained. Partnering with the Bulawayo City Council would have taken these games into the heart of Bulawayo’s high-density suburbs. The mere presence of so many buses and coaches as well as thousands of students would have attracted a large attendance at the stadium, especially if entry was free-given that people are largely starved of entertainment. Taking these games to the people is also a way of promoting various sporting disciplines and if the general public learns that there are sporting heroes in tertiary institutions, this can only augur well for the development and growth of sport in the country. Such involvement also removes the generally held view that sport is for people who cannot do well at school.

Sport also promotes a healthy country and taking the games to the people goes a long way in encouraging people to take part in sport, not just for a living, but for keeping fit and healthy.

Hopefully, the failure to take these games to a profile was purely an error of judgment on the part of the organisers rather than playing games with the resources allocated for the games – the less the profile the games take, the less the calls for greater accountability!

Bulawayo in particular and Zimbabwe in general has lost another gallant sports person with the passing on of Mackenzie Sibanda, former player, administrator and coach as well as life member of Highlanders FC. To most young sportspersons in Bulawayo in the 1970s and 1980s, Sibanda was Townshend and Butcher and Bafa more than any other thing. At the time of his calling to a different world Sibanda was also a councillor for Mzilikazi suburb since 2008, and he was, so befittingly, laid to rest at Lady Stanley Cemetery on Sunday.

The junior policy Sibanda and others founded at Highlanders is there for all to see and, at 80 years of age, the affable administrator certainly had some satisfaction from the success this policy has been for Highlanders and Zimbabwe football. This world is not our home, we are just but passing through! So we can only say hamba kuhle Mdawini!

India pipped England by five runs in a thrilling but rain-shortened ICC Champions Trophy cricket final at Edgbaston, Birmingham, on Sunday and in the process, the hosts failed to shed off their losers’ tag. The ICC had said that this was the last Champions Trophy finals, but the excitement and interest this one generated will surely cause a rethink.

African football teams appear cursed at the international stage, what with Nigeria playing so brilliantly against Spain in their last group match at the Confederations Cup in Brazil, but falling by three goals to no reply and the four continental representatives in the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey all failing to win in their opening group matches.

Mali fared slightly better than the other three teams, drawing 1-1 with Paraguay while Egypt went down 1-2 to Chile to follow in the footsteps of Ghana and Nigeria, who lost their opening group matches to France and Portugal, respectively.

Hosts Brazil face fellow South Americans Uruguay in the first semi-final of the Confederations Cup tomorrow while Spain and Italy clash in an all-European second semi-final on Thursday. Both the final and third place playoff will be Sunday.

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