Looking After Yesteryear’s Sports Stars

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port is now a global industry generating billions of dollars every year. Today’s sport stars in major sport codes are being paid handsomely. Football, NBA basketball, Major League Baseball, American Football, and the National Hockey League (NHL) salaries run into millions of dollars per individual sport star. 

However, many of these former stars and celebrities have fallen on hard times. 

Good examples are Vin Baker, the former four-time NBA All Star who, at the height of his career, earned more than US$100 million per contract and Mike “Iron Mike” Tyson who earned almost US$1 billion in his illustrious boxing career. 

Too often, sport authorities like to identify with sport stars when they are still active. The moment they retire, the stars are relegated into the garbage bin of history. 

Things become very tough for those that did not invest wisely while they were still earning good money through sport. 

For some sports codes such as karate, darts, chess or table tennis it very difficult in the Southern African scenario to earn any significant money through sport. 

Unless you have another career to fall back on during and after your years of active participation and competition in the sport, you will have serious financial challenges. 

That is why sometimes parents, and rightfully so, urge their children to concentrate on their academic pursuits rather than sport.  

The parents view sport as a distraction for which their children will never be recognised and rewarded for their efforts. 

Careers, family and social life are affected as sports persons must train intensively and prepare for competitions. In most cases, they are either alone or accompanied by their coaches and trainers, as they bid to bring pride and glory to their countries. 

Southern Africa has produced quite several good sporting stars, who should be contributing to the development of sport as role models sharing their rich experiences with today’s young emerging stars. However, these yesteryear stars are not being fully utilised nationally or regionally. 

Southern Africa has many great sports persons, who need to be celebrated while they are still alive. 

Obviously, and most unfortunately, some are accorded posthumous recognition. However, that is better than no recognition at all. 

Yes, the great sports men and women belong first and foremost to their individual countries, but they should be celebrated throughout Southern Africa. 

Some of the Southern African champions, who deserve to be in the Regional Sports Hall of Fame are Nick Price and Ernie Els the golfers from Zimbabwe and South Africa, respectively.  

In athletics, who can forget the great exploits of Frankie Fredericks and Maria Mutola of Namibia and Mozambique, respectively? Football has the great Kinnah Phiri of Malawi, Flavio and Manucho of Angola, Kalusha Bwalya of Zambia, Jomo Sono, Lucas Radebe and Bernie McCarthy of South Africa as well as Peter Ndlovu and Moses Chunga of Zimbabwe. 

Swimming has Ryk Neethling, Chad le Clos, Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa as well as the inspirational Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe. It is up to the sports authorities to ensure that achievements of these great men and women are etched in the memories of the generations to come. Failure to do so will be a terrible travesty of justice.

In other regions of the world, former stars are revered for their contributions. They get jobs as coaches, team managers, heads of team delegations, radio or television commentators, among many other relevant responsibilities. 

However, in Africa and even here in Southern Africa, some current sport administrators really go out of their way to marginalise former sports stars. 

By Andrew Bonani Kamanga

The sport becomes much poorer because of this, depriving these administrators and the emerging young stars of the benefit of practical experience. 

If George Weah could go back to school after his long football career and become President of Liberia, it just shows that sport stars can take advantage of life lessons learnt on the sport field. 

There are endless possibilities for sport stars after their retirement. However, there is a need for current administrators to establish a conducive environment for the mutual benefit of both parties. 

Former sport stars should not be charity cases but must contribute to the well-being of society just like other productive citizens. Reports about George Shaya of Zimbabwe being unable to look after himself due to advanced age and ill health are a cause of great concern. 

George Shaya is the most decorated footballer in the history of Zimbabwean football, winning the famous Soccer Star of the Year accolade of that country a record five times. 

Even his club, the legendary Dynamos Football Club, has not done much for their famous former star.

National sport authorities should put in place deliberate policies and programmes that assist current stars to invest their earnings wisely as well as supporting former national sport stars and heroes.  

These individuals should not, after retirement, become an embarrassment but should be assisted to lead normal lives. They should continue to inspire nations to strive for excellence in all forms of life and work.

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