LAST week, the Kenyan government announced its intention to build multipurpose stadia throughout the country. For the uninitiated in sport lingo, multipurpose stadia are stadia which can accommodate more sporting events than football.
The announcement was made by President Uhuru Kenyatta in the heat of the country’s on-going election campaign. He said if his government is re-elected, he would ensure that he builds stadia in each and every county in the country.
Kenyatta who was first elected President in 2013 general election, is seeking his second and last presidential term. Again, for those who may not know Kenya’s potential in sport, we are talking about a country which has always led the world in middle and long distance races in athletics in the Olympics.
Kenya has succeeded in international sports, and athletics in particular, because of the government’s massive inputs. The Kenyan government has been supporting sports and athletics, in particular, for many years.
One of the assistance in the sport took the form of establishing a structure, in the form of a route, in Kenya’s highlands to cater for training for long distance runners. Ethiopian middle and long distance runners have been flocking into the East African country to train in the high altitude terrain. The only sport that Kenya has not done well has been in the realm of soccer much as they have produced not less than four top flight professional soccer players in Victor Wanyama, Macdonald Mariga and Denis Oliech.
I have raised what President Kenyatta promised his supporters because that is the right thing that any government worth its name ought to do to its people. President Kenyatta’s promise was aimed at targeting the youth who make 51 per cent of the country’s population.
The Kenyan youth are very critical in the forthcoming general election scheduled for August 8th 2017, that is eleven days away, hence Kenyatta’s decision to make the promise he made.
Through massive success in athletics, scores of Kenyan youth have been turning to athletics in order to transform their lives. For instance, many internationally successful Kenyan athletes own small planes that dot Nairobi’s Wilson Airport.
And for one to become a proud owner of any of those four to 12 seater Cessna planes, his or her income ought to be close to or should exceed 800,000 US dollars.
Any athlete who wins all his or her event, say, in 100m throughout the season in the IAAF, is entitled to around one million US dollars which is enough to buy one a brand new, 12 seater Cessna plane. Winners of international marathon races earn from 100,000 US dollars upwards.
What this means is that if one wins three such races in a year, he or she can get between 300,000 and 900,000 US dollars as the most prestigious marathon races rake in up to 300,000 US dollars per race.
Therefore any government that builds state-of-the-art multipurpose stadia does not only prepare the foundation for its country’s sports development, but also provides massive opportunity for its youth to transform sports into their profession that can help them in earning massive income.
Apart from providing the youth with an alternative employment, massive success in sports helps a country to build two, very important things; the country’s image in the world and secondly, but more importantly, it helps in building nationalism.
The latter is cemented the more often the country becomes a part, say, in the finals of an international tournament like the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) or the Fifa World Cup.
If for instance, Tanzania takes part in the Afcon or Fifa World Cup finals, Tanzanians would come together as a nation whenever their country plays in either of the foregoing soccer tournaments.
Whenever Tanzania takes on an opponent, Tanzanians all over the world, and in Tanzania in particular, would don national colours in readiness to watch their team in action against a foreign opponent and in more often than not, far away from home.
And during all the while, national rather than petty issues would take centre stage, between and among the fans, and that is how oneness or nationalism is cemented. It is also important to bear in mind that dominance in international sport is power.
It helps a nation in influencing others, not only in sport but also in other spheres of life, that’s apart from keeping its citizens in tip top health form.
For instance, if Kenya says it is not going to allow its athletes to take part, say, in the forthcoming Olympic Games, other top sporting nations in the world would do all in their power to ensure that Kenya rescinds her decision.
However, if such a threat was to be made by Tanzania; no one in the world would give a hoot. And the main reason for that is that Tanzania is not a power house in the sporting world, it does not have any influence, let alone in the sport field.
Therefore if we want a healthy nation and transform our youth into professional sportsmen and women who can earn their living through sports, then we need to invest, heavily, in sports infrastructure. The choice lies with us.
But if we don’t, as we have done for years, then we should not complain because we decided, long ago, to become a sporting, weakling nation where sport weakling like Rwanda, Swaziland and Botswana can freely poke their fingers into our eyes.