Zimbabwe sports minister hopes to uplift youth, unite 'polarised' country

Coventry, who is dubbed the country’s ‘Golden Girl’, having won seven swimming medals for her country, including two golds, says she is aware of how vitally important her docket that includes upliftin

Zimbabwe’s new 34-year old minister, Kirsty Coventry believes sports can unite the country that has been polarised by political and economic challenges.



Coventry, who is dubbed the country’s ‘Golden Girl’, having won seven swimming medals for her country, including two golds, says she is aware of how vitally important her docket that includes uplifting the youth is.



“I firmly believe that sport breaks down barriers between people, and that it can bring a nation together in unity and pride. It transcends all sections of society, the older generation and the kids,’‘ Coventry says.



‘A pleasant surprise’



Coventry says she never had an ambition to go into government, but now that the opportunity has presented itself, is eager to make the most of it.



“I do believe that things are brought to you for a reason and that there is a bigger picture to what we are doing. Zimbabwe is a very exciting place at the moment with everything that is happening.



“I will do what I have always done, to try and inspire and uplift people. I know I will need to surround myself with a good team to achieve what we want to do. But I still see myself very much as just a person and not a politician.”



‘Focus on our strengths’



Having been sworn in on Monday, Coventry has hit the ground running, meeting officials of several sports federations and sharing her vision for a triumphant Zimbabwe at the Olympics.



Coventry believes the country needs to be more “strategic” in the development of Olympic athletes.



“Two important factors we need to consider if we are to improve our chances are obviously providing facilities and access to sport, and in this regard I think we need to be more strategic,” Coventry told Reuters.



“The example I always use is that of Jamaica, who decided to focus on the 100-metre and 200-metre sprints, because they saw that as a strength, and they have done remarkably well.



Getting the job done



The successful athlete and accomplished sports administrator plans to sit down in the coming weeks with the country’s sporting federations, coaches, players and other stakeholders to listen to their challenges.



“I want to understand how we can better support our athletes and youth, because sport and the arts is also a vehicle for job creation, which is so important for Zimbabwe.”





Coventry has extensive experience in sports administration having been elected chairperson of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission earlier this year, and is also a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Athlete Committee.



She has served as vice-president of Zimbabwe National Olympic Committee and fulfilled the same role for the International Surfing Association.




Gabon's Camacho axed. What's next for the Panthers? [Football Planet]

Gabon’s sports minister Alain Claude Billie By-Nze announced last week that Jose Antonio Camacho’s contract as head coach of the Panthers coach of the will not be renewed at the end of November.

Gabon’s sports minister Alain Claude Billie By-Nze announced last week that Jose Antonio Camacho’s contract as head coach of the Panthers coach of the will not be renewed at the end of November. A Gabonese football pundit Berleck Leckobat joined us on a call from Libreville, to share his thoughts with us.

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The first leg of the quarter finals of the CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederations CAF were played over the weekend. In the Champions League, only four goals were scored in all four matches played but despite the shortage of goals, the action was intense! In this episode, Philemon Mbale joined us live in the studio for a quick analysis of the action. e have a special guest to give us a quick analysis of the action.

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Football is a sport to be enjoyed by all. Morocco’s soccer team for people with dwarfism hopes for sponsors to help fund their participation in an international tournament in Argentina. Mbale and Bridgete Ugwe filed a detailed report on that.

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The Rwanda Football Federation have denied allegations that they bribed a referee who officiated their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match which they lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast on September 9 in Kigali.

Namibian referee Jackson Pavaza reportedly communicated to CAF that he had been offered a bribe and told the Namibian media about the story.

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The first-ever African Freestyle Football Championship ends in Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos with Ben Abdul Nader Kone from Ivory Coast winning the tournament. The 3-day event which took place at Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos saw freestylers from various part of the continent compete fiercely for the star prize. Linnette Bahati and Cedric Sehossolo did a report on that.

Averting Africa's tragic stadium disasters [Sport]

Experts attribute the drum roll of football disasters to a combination of poor security and stadium management that reflects a « general indifference to the comfort and safety of people who go to watch

African football is no stranger to death at stadiums. Last weekend was an exciting weekend for football fans in the continent when we were having plenty of matches for the AFCON 2019 qualifiers, but in The Big Island of Madagascar, a life was lost and 40 injured in a stadium stampede just before the Madagascar vs Senegal game.

This is definitely not the first such incident in Africa. It’s again not even the worst. The continent has over the last few decades gotten a tragic record of stadium disasters. Ironically with increasing insecurity, no incident has been a result of a terrorist act. All these tragedies stem from Poor crowd control, overzealous policing and fan misbehavior.

On May 9‚ 2001, the worst stadium disaster in Africa occurred In Accra Ghana, after a match between Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko. Hearts netted two late goals to win the game‚ after which Kotoko threw objects onto the pitch and broke seats. The police fired tear gas into the stands and from the resultant stampede‚ 127 souls were lost.
At the Stade Frederic Kibassa Maliba in Lubumbashi DRC, local clubs TP Mazembe and St Eloi Lupopo were clashing on 29, April 2001. Crowd trouble ensued and again, police fired teargas into the crowd. A total of 14 people died in the stampede that followed.

In 2012 reports said 74 people were killed when fans of Egyptian side Al Masry turned violent against visiting supporters of Al Ahly at the Port Said Stadium. Panicked Ahly fans were attacked with blunt instruments and knives, and many were killed in a crush as they tried to escape the violence, while others fell or were thrown from terraces.

Last year, eight fans died in a stampede at a game in Malawi, while the same number was killed in a cup final in Senegal.

Two fans were killed in South Africa during a crush at an entrance gate for a pre-season friendly between Soweto sides Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates at Soccer City, the venue for the 2010 World Cup final, in July 2017.

Those are just but some of the ugly incidences that have emerged from crowd trouble in African stadiums. By analysis most of the deaths come from stampedes that stem from poor policing, like police firing tear gas into crowd. Then the crowd surges towards the only available exits.

It has been established that due to poor ticketing systems, most of the stadiums have only a few gates open and others locked. Why would you have only 3 gates open in a 60,000-capacity stadium that has over 20 gates?

There’s a culture of neglect that needs to end. Experts attribute the drum roll of football disasters to a combination of poor security and stadium management that reflects a “general indifference to the comfort and safety of people who go to watch.”

The practice of police using tear gas should be banned, as it evidently does nothing but spark calamity and stampedes. Stadium management and crowd control also need to be upped to international standards as per the FIFA guidelines.

But then there’s the biggest problem of all, that is hooliganism and spectator violence which is what has triggered most tragedies. Combating such unruly behaviour has proved hard for security officials but it can be fairly regulated through implementation of fences to stop fans running onto the pitch and installing pens to prevent sideways movement by fans – ultimately, that requires high levels of order and crowd control.

Bottom line is regardless of societal or economic constraints, African governments, federations and football fans have a huge responsibility and in fact a duty, in making our stadiums safe places to watch football.

Liberia honour VAR: Why Weah is on and offside with Wenger medal

Back home, the argument was that giving the highest national honour had to reflect the magnitude of the recipient’s contribution to the country. That Wenger had undoubtedly done so much for Weah as a

Liberia’s president George Weah recently conferred his country’s highest honour on ex-Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. The move elicited varied responses for and against the action.

One thing was clear, that the criticisms were not going to have the potency to flag the event offside. So it took place in Monrovia, August 24, as Weah decorated the Frenchman man who discovered him way back in 1988.

Back home, the argument was that giving the highest national honour had to reflect the magnitude of the recipient’s contribution to the country. That Wenger had undoubtedly done so much for Weah as a person and not Liberia as a country.

Others averred, much as the president could award honours, the category he had chosen to confer on Wenger reflected a personal will than that of the Liberian people.

Then a minister stepped in to explain / justify why Wenger and why the highest national award. In summary, he said the award was even beyond Wenger’s impact on Liberia but on Africa as a whole – given the opportunities he gave African players whiles coaching.

Information Minister Eugene Nagbe in response to criticisms of the award told the BBC the award was not only about Wenger’s impact on Weah alone but a way to recognize that the Frenchman had “contributed to sports in Africa and has given many Africans opportunities.”

For those that see the move as justified, they argue that the president is well within his powers to confer an award on any individual he deems fit. That he would hardly have unilaterally done so without the agreement of an advisory council.

Again, they advance the argument that long before Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leila Gbowee were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Liberia was best known for its protracted deadly and devastating civil war.

The days when any glimmer of hope and stability was shattered with the taking of arms, when Liberia’s internal crisis threatened an entire sub-region principally Sierra Leone, when nationals were scattered around West Africa as they fled the war back home.

In those days, there was the ‘patriotic’ young man called George Weah, a young man who gave Liberians something to rally around. He brought football to citizens home and abroad.

Weah is on record to have singlehandedly financed travels of the national team across Africa as they engaged in qualifiers for tournaments or even to play in friendly games – he was in essence the main financier of national team football in Liberia.

Winning international accolades over the time also brought Liberia to the fore and he took the opportunity at every turn to file for peace back home. Weah knew that his journey started three decades ago thanks to Wenger signing him for Toulouse.

The two went their separate ways as Wenger took on Arsenal years later whiles Weah travelled around Europe making a name for himself.

So the argument about Wenger’s impact on Liberia for some, is tied to Weah’s overall impact on the country especially through the years of turmoil. For others, Weah could probably not convince any other president to award Wenger that kind of medal.

The final whistle has since been blown and Liberia’s national honours has in it that Arsene Wenger is a Knights Grand Commander, Humane Order of African Redemption (KGC-HOAR) thanks to President George Weah.

Shaban Abdur Rahman Alfa
Africanews, Digital Journalist
alfa.shaban@africanews.com
@AlfaAfrican

Video: 51-year old George Weah takes on Nigeria's Super Eagles

Liberia had arranged the friendly to retire the number 14 jersey made famous by Weah but fans were in for a shock when, 16 years after his last international appearance, the striker led the national t

Liberia’s George Weah who used his football fame and star power to make a successful bid for the presidency, briefly came out of retirement on Tuesday to play in a 2-1 loss to Nigeria a few weeks short of his 52nd birthday.

The former World Footballer of the Year led the attack and played for up to 79 minutes, surprising many who watched the game and those who were following the proceedings online.

Liberia had arranged the friendly to retire the number 14 jersey made famous by Weah but fans were in for a shock when, 16 years after his last international appearance, the striker led the national team onto the pitch wearing it instead.

Does president Weah still have his football magic?

Media reports said Weah, who led the attack and showed glimpses of the class that made him a household name around the world, received a standing ovation from fans when he was substituted on 79 minutes.

Goals from Henry Onyekuru and Simeon Nwankwo helped Nigeria to a 2-0 lead before the hosts pulled one back through a Kpah Sherman penalty late in the game.

Weah’s glorious football career

Weah enjoyed a career in Europe spanning nearly a decade and a half that saw him play for Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille in France, AC Milan in Italy and English sides Manchester City and Chelsea.

As well as being named the 1995 World Footballer of the Year, he also won the Ballon d’Or in the same year and remains the only African to win either award.

Weah’s popularity from his playing career saw him secure a landslide run-off winlast December in Liberia’s presidential elections.

ALSO READ: Weah honours Wenger with Liberia’s highest national award

Is Africa’s football talent finally coming back home? [Football Planet]

More and more players of African descent in Europe are trooping back home. Most recently, Geoffrey Kondogbia (France) and Saido Berahino (England) completed nationality switches to Central African Rep

In this article, the word home is used to refer to Africa.

More and more players of African descent in Europe are trooping back home. Most recently, Geoffrey Kondogbia (France) and Saido Berahino (England) completed nationality switches to Central African Republic (C.A.R) and Burundi respectively. Other players like Gabon’s Aubameyang, Ghana’s Kevin Prince Boateng and Ivory Coast’s Wilfried Zaha who have made similar moves and by observation, that has become a curious trend.

It led the big (hypothetical) question; is Africa’s ‘muscle drain’ finally over? Nuhu Adams, a veteran sports analyst from Ghana joined us on call from Accra to share his comments. He said: “It’s not like they’re willing to come back but when they realize they can’t play for the countries they are in, that is when they opt to come play for their African teams. If Kevin Prince Boateng was aware he was going to be called up by Germany for the 2010 World Cup he would never have come to play for Ghana.

“Yes it’s good they are coming back but I can’t really say they are coming to play for Africa. That’s not the reality. The reality is that when they are ignored by those European countries then they turn to Africa because most of the african countries are always chasing for such players,” he said.

In a nutshell, Nuhu is of the opinion that their return has little to do with tracing back their roots, patriotism or even pan-Africanism. It’s more about pursuing and securing personal convenience.

Abdullahi Boru Halakhe, a Horn of Africa security analyst share’s Nuhu’s sentiments. He say’s in an article published on Aljazeera that most of the players switching to African national teams are doing so because they are unable to make the cut in Europe adding that it has a lot to do with intense domestic competition but also with increasing racism.

Biting graft and con agents at home

Halakhe further points out that African football will continue to struggle to retain talent, owing to poor governance, predatory and unregulated football agents and inadequate commercial incentives that have continued to push exceptional African players to leave the continent for Europe.

Few African football federations are managed professionally; corruption is rife with money meant for football development ending up in individual officials’ bank accounts.

The sheer number of African players playing in foreign leagues is one of the most notable trends in recent tournaments.

Corruption and poor management have stunted local leagues across Africa and discouraged fans from attending games. Predatory and exploitative “football agents”, who lure young boys with a promise to make them the next big thing in Africa’s football, have filled the gap left by the lack of adequate training schemes and academies.

A lack of regulation and inspection allows these con men to operate with impunity. They promise to sign young boys for famous clubs in Europe and take exorbitant fees from the boys’ families to secure these “deals”. Sometimes families sell everything they have to pay the agents because they believe their child will become the next Didier Drogba. In some cases, the agents disappear with the family’s savings before the boy even travels to Europe, in others the boy is taken to Europe and left there alone to fend for himself.

According to Charity Foot Solidaire at least 15,000 young football players are moved, out of West Africa each year under false pretences, but a lack of monitoring means the number of boys being trafficked abroad could be far higher.

As a result, international superstars like Senegal’s Sadio Mane and Egypt’s Mohammad Salah prefer to play for European football clubs, rather than staying in Africa and so the problem of allegiance persists.

Problem of allegiance

The sheer number of African players playing in foreign leagues is one of the most notable trends in recent continental tournaments. During the 2017 AFCON in Gabon, 368 players were involved and out of that number, 64% play their club football in Europe, just under a third play in Africa (28%), followed by Asia (6%) and the Americas (1%), according to numbers from Sportslens.

It’s also becoming increasingly rare to find home grown coaches on the sidelines in major African tournaments. At AFCON 2017 only four teams – Senegal, Zimbabwe, Guinea Bissau and the Democratic Republic of Congo – were led by African coaches, while most of the other 12 tacticians are European.

At the Russia 2018 World Cup, Senegal’s Aliou Cisse was the only coach from Sub-Saharan Africa and conversely didnt have any player in his 23-man squad that was playing in the local Senegalese league. The closes he came was having Khadim Ndiaye who plays for Guinean side Horoya AC. The rest ply their trade outside Africa.

Muscle drain will persist

Looking at the big numbers of players playing outside their home countries, it’s evident that the muscle drain is far from over and then another question arises; has this massive migration affected the African game?

Of course, when such a huge number of talented players showcase their talents away from Africa, the local leagues are left poorer. This makes it difficult to increase spectator numbers in stadiums except when the national team is playing and the star players are back in the country, as Professor Wycliffe W. Njororai Simiyu writes in The Conversation.

However, he says, at individual level the players are well rewarded for their talent and efforts. Additionally, individual players’ technical, physical, psychological, tactical and overall understanding of the game really skyrockets.

Such players tend to bring back home a positive influence on the national team. No wonder that most of the dominant African teams have the largest number of footballing “exiles”. It’s worth noting that when the national team does well, there is more inflow of cash from international governing body FIFA and also easier to attract corporate support.

The downside is that these star players tend to convert their home audiences to fans of the foreign leagues where they showcase their skills. With European leagues dominating the cable TV networks, most fans transfer their allegiance to foreign leagues and that contributes to reducing interest in domestic leagues.

This should be a wake-up call to those overseeing the African game – it’s time to value and treat players with maximum respect and reward them accordingly.

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