“Trading” in African athletes: Sporting success or modern slave trade in the hands of powerful forces?
African athletes, under the management of hawk eyed agents and donning brands of various multi billion corporations trot the globe winning and shattering course and/or world records of handsomely priced global mega events. At the face value, no one, not even critics of Africa’s blight will hesitate to marvel at the wondrous talents of these great men and women, the athletes. They absorb daunting training sessions with least support in hostile environments accentuated by pangs of poverty. In spite of all the challenges, African athletes continue to exhale excellence, excellence that is rapidly degenerating into a double edged sword. On the one hand, the excellence of African athletes has sown inspiration and hope in rather hopeless situations. In addition, it has given Africa a face lift amid her perennial challenges, conveying messages that signal oases of buoyancy in a continent perceived to be barren and defined by constant wars, diseases and poverty.
On the other hand, the excellence of African athletes has opened flood gates of abuse and exploitation of unsuspecting athletes eager to cross the ocean of poverty. In a continent where a majority of the population earn and live on less than one dollar per day, it is highly enticing for young athletes to sign contracts they least understand. These contracts are prepared by unscrupulous agents on the hunt for young and fresh talents working in cohort with sports and government officials. The ultimate goal is to push the athletes beyond their elastic limits in order to squeeze out every dollar they can make. Many agents are not interested in the athletes lives and background, instead they are preoccupied with how to roll out fast money. Thus, it is no surprise that we continue to hear same old names of fine athletes, while the young come up and flicker off almost immediately. It is against this background that this paper seeks to go the least journeyed path by highlighting deep weighty issues that are rarely discussed, which define and characterize Africa’s sports enterprise, more specifically the burdens shouldered by African athletes.
Lewis K. E. Chongwony,
Department of Instructional Technology,
Ohio University, Athens, Ohio.
Kenyatta University Lobos Athletics Club (KULAC) founder and captain for joint universities team to National Championships cum World & Olympics trials 1998 – 2001.
Dec. 2001: Participated in East Africa University games held in Makerere University, Uganda (17th – 21st Dec. 2001) June 2001: Semi finalist in 800m with personal best time of 1 minute 48 seconds during the nationals cum world championship trials held at Kasarani Nairobi, Kenya (22nd - June 2001) Feb. 2000: Kenya’s Collegiate (universities) cross country champion in 4 kilometers with best time of 11 minutes 42 seconds held at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology Dec. 1999: Gold medalist in 800m and 1500m during East Africa Universities Games held at Egerton University Njoro, Kenya (19th – 22nd Dec. 1999)