What you need to know:
- This week, a retired Kenyan footballer wrote to me asking why we do very little to nurture athletes yet once they make it big, the society expects so much from them
- A winner of many top marathon races in the world, Loroupe is not only a United Nations Ambassador of Sport, but also organises annual peace marathon races through her Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation
- In her own words, the Françoise Mbango Higher Institute of Sports and Physical Education will complement the government’s effort in training experts in the sector
The world over, top sportsmen and women have had to endure embarrassing moments when put on the spot to explain what they have done to benefit their communities.
During those moments, star athletes accustomed to fielding questions before a battery of journalists suddenly stutter and squirm in their seats. The more creative ones spin a tall yarn about plans of building this state-of-the-art talent academy or that ultra-modern stadium “to create more stars like me.”
In his 1988 album titled “Slave”, South African reggae star, the late Lucky Dube, extols the virtues of generosity in the song “The hand That Giveth.”
Indeed the Bible (in Acts 20:35) advises that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Because there has to be a receiver in the giver-taker situation, I have always wondered why the would-be giver is apportioned more blessings than the taker, but I digress.
This week, a retired Kenyan footballer wrote to me asking why we do very little to nurture athletes yet once they make it big, the society expects so much from them.
I replied that as Africans, we are socialised to share what we have with others once we make it in life as a way of giving back to the society, very much in line with Ubuntu African Philosophy, but my response was unappreciated, seeing as I received five more e-mail correspondences on why athletes should be left to enjoy the sweat of their brows in peace, complete with examples from here and abroad.
I quickly thought about McDonald Mariga’s failed bid to become Kibra MP last year, and the mud thrown at him for not having done anything for Kibra residents during his stay at top European football clubs.
I wanted to write back saying that even if for nothing more, supporting local communities would shield the athlete from being blamed in that manner, but I suppressed the thought.
It is better for athletes to support their communities not necessarily out of obligation, but so as to leave a lasting legacy that not only improves the lives of others but also ensures their names are forever etched on their minds.
Many such examples such as Kenyan-born Dutch long distance runner Lorna Kiplagat, and retired athlete Tegla Loroupe quickly come to mind. Three-time world half marathon champion Loroupe is not only the first African woman to win the New York City Marathon title, but is also the first woman from Africa to hold the world record in the marathon.
A winner of many top marathon races in the world, Loroupe is not only a United Nations Ambassador of Sport, but also organises annual peace marathon races through her Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation to bring peace between warring communities in West Pokot.
She also runs Tegla Loroupe Peace Academy and orphanage for children from Kapenguria.
You would say that Kiplagat’s venture, Lorna Kiplagat High Altitude Training Camp in Iten, is purely commercial but she is filling a gap by providing modern training facilities for top athletes in an athletics-rich area where it has taken the government two election cycles to start laying the foundation stone of a stadium. Kiplagat also runs a sports academy at the centre.
Speaking of a lasting legacy, an athlete and a musician left me with a big impression this past week.
First, Cameroonian-born track and field athlete Françoise Mbango Etone made a bold decision to give back to the society in a way that very few of her peers have done. The two-time Olympics gold medallist in the triple jump has again out-jumped her peers by setting up the first ever privately owned university in the Central African country specialising on sports and physical education.
In her own words, the Françoise Mbango Higher Institute of Sports and Physical Education will complement the government’s effort in training experts in the sector, and fits in her desire to leave a concrete legacy.
Gambian musician Sona Jobarteh who has been performing with the kora, a 21-stringed African harp, on the world stage since she was five, set up the Gambia Academy in 2015.
It teaches school-age children a mainstream curriculum alongside African history, culture and traditional music.