I was just watching the British 2019 Sports Personality of the Year Awards, and was thinking to myself, how much of this really goes on in Africa.
Considering that the most populous sport on the continent happens to be football, I crave your pardon for the bias on this sport. However, I must acknowledge the the Cricket Nations such as South Africa and Zimbabwe and Athletics (notably marathon) Nations such as Ethiopia and Kenya.
In the case of cricket, the likes of Dwaine Pretorius are more recent acknowledgments, as his decision to stay with the team rather than pursue a career with Nottinghamshire in English county cricket is a ringing endorsement for South African cricket’s apparent new dawn.
Similarly in Zimbabwean cricket of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Henry Olonga, the country’s first-ever professional black cricketer, stands tall as one of the most audacious figures of the game having played 30 Tests and 50 ODIs in a career spanning eight years, picking up 126 wickets across both formats.
Coming back to Football, there have been numerous vilifications of unpatriotism as far as commitment to the National Teams goes, such as “the boys are not as committed to the country as they are to their club sides.” This goes to those that have managed to venture to higher paying British and North American club sides.
Staring with the most recent case of the Golden Ball winner at the 1987 U17 World Cup, Philip Osondu, who passed away recently, there has neither been any detailed reporting on the cause of death or national support for the family.
What exactly is the message for African Sports and especially the African Football. Obviously, this requires a situation of “all hands of deck”, and not just the football or other sports federations but also the media and opportunities for documentaries and possibly even movie scripts to celebrate these unsung heroes.
In my 2016 article on the Nigerian Football league, I mentioned the dismal use of brand ambassadors citing the likes of the late Stephen Keshi as a case in point.
So there we have it, African personality of the year award is a worthy imperative. Recognition comes in numerous forms and we are well aware that financial remuneration at the country level is clearly no match for what obtains at the club level and especially in the case of those that ply their trade in the West.
Moving on, it is looking very likely that there would be more convergence between Africa and the Middle East from 2020 onwards hence more research attention should be paid to such a looming convergence imperative.