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Ken Borland

Archive for the ‘Sascoc’

Sam makes trumpet call against bloated sports department 0

Posted on May 18, 2015 by Ken


Sascoc president Gideon Sam has made a trumpet call for Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula to forge a more efficient administration in the fight for sporting transformation.

Sam, speaking at the Highveld Lions awards dinner this week, said Mbalula was presiding over a bloated administration that was deflecting money away from the effort to clear “historical backlogs” in sport.

“The minister of sport has a very small budget, hardly a billion rand, and that’s for his administration too. Each minister of sport inherits a huge staff and, because of the power of the unions, he dare not touch that staff. I compare it to Sascoc and I wonder why there are so many people in the department of sport and recreation? It has to be asked. It’s very hard for the minister to work people out and usually he brings in more of his own people as well.

“Politicians want to use sport for ‘social cohesion’, but that phrase is not in my dictionary. How can sport, which is so impoverished, do that? The truth is, if you really go into it, South African sport is not structured correctly. We’re not giving impoverished sportspeople, black and white, a fair chance,” Sam said.

Sam suggested the debate over World Cup selection was “deliberate, to try and throw stones at the administration and it takes us nowhere”, but he did acknowledge that there was growing frustration at much of the bureaucracy that surrounds transformation and funding.

“The federations apply, they fill in all those forms and they don’t even get an acknowledgement so they get fed up with the battle. Why should they concern themselves with transformation policy when they have to foot the bill themselves?”

The Sascoc president said the club player who could “afford a plane ticket and the price of accommodation in a hotel” was always going to make a team ahead of competitors who could not afford to travel to tournaments.


People must pressure goverment to support sport 0

Posted on August 31, 2012 by Ken

“People must not praise the government for supporting sport. That’s like praising a fish for swimming, it’s what it’s meant to do”.

So says Fikile Mbalula the sports minister and one of the more extraordinary people on a South African political scene that regularly shifts into the realm of the bizarre.

South Africans, like people in most other nations, have widely differing views on just what government should be doing and how well they are doing it, but the nation, almost as a whole, seems to be clamouring for more support for sport in the wake of the feel-good factor generated by the Olympics.

Sascoc initially set a target of 12 medals for the London Olympics, but given that the previous Games brought just a solitary silver medal for Khotso Mokoena in the long jump, nobody who was in their right minds believed that was likely.

Instead, the 2012 Olympics produced three golds, two silver and one bronze medal; and the target of 12 medals has now been allocated to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

So who is going to be responsible and – that most un-South African concept – accountable for ensuring there are a dozen medals being paraded around O.R. Tambo International Airport in four years’ time?

Sascoc CEO Tubby Reddy admits that his organisation have the responsibility of ensuring sporting success.

“It’s very clear who the custodian of sport in South Africa is – it’s Sascoc. But we need to engage with government, the Department of Sport and the provinces.

“We cannot plan for 2016 if our funding is only annual. We need a cycle of funding and to build the most sustainable program going forward, we need government, the lottery and corporates.

“The minister of finance does not talk about sport, but we will go to Pravin Gordhan. We will push the politicians to unlock the resources. I understand there are other priorities, but sport is nation-building and it deserves some slice,” Reddy told the Mail and Guardian.

Mbalula is adamant that government has to find some money in its budget for sport.

“Government has got to come to the party. We need to support the young child in Gugulethu and Mitchell’s Plain, that’s what the Sports Plan is about, giving more than R1 billion. But the people need to put government under pressure to invest in sport so that we can compete with the likes of Australia,” Mbalula said.

The new Sports Plan will be launched on October 20. The high performance components of SA sport have been under the control of Sascoc for a while now, but the new dispensation will see the establishment of a national plan that will need to be implemented in all the provinces, while the government will look after sport at the school and grassroots levels.

“The national agenda needs to dictate the provincial pathway, it’s like the Springbok coach always says, he wants everyone playing the same way,” Reddy said. “The plan will also include the provincial academies, which for five or six years have been all over the place, and the coaching framework.

“The school sport plan has not worked for many years, physical education is out of the curriculum and what is taught in life orientation skills is just not the same. It took the two ministers [sport and education] longer than envisaged to decide how the new process would work, but Minister Mbalula has the passion, nothing is impossible with him, and he has the drive.”

Of course, part of the reason for the improved medal haul this year from one to 12 was the increased financial support from corporate South Africa. Companies like Sasol, Nedbank, Vodacom and SAB have a long history of backing sport, but there have been some strident voices out there calling on them to give more, because it’s “payback time”.

Such arrogance can only murder the golden goose and, as it is, the confidence of corporate South Africa in sports administrators is not exactly of the highest order.

According to some public critics, the tracks of the government gravy train also reach the offices of Sascoc in Melrose and there is obviously something of a power struggle going on between the organisation and some of the national federations.

“With due respect to the federations, they are not always right when it comes to their talent identification and we have to verify a lot of their submissions. We can’t go to the Olympic Games and wonder if we’re going to get medals, so we have to work together with the national federations,” Reddy said.

The Chinese approach of centralised control is obviously the template Mbalula favours.

“We must do what China do. We can’t compete with them, but we can replicate what they do within our limits. This one-off talent identification is a killer. There must be a process, from when the athletes are school kids,” Mbalula said.

The selection process for Rio could well begin as early as next year …

“In 2013 we must roll out the best of the best, set the standards and eliminate those who can’t reach them. We can’t wait for the sports plan to take effect for the next Olympics, we need to start now,” the sports minister stated.

The South African sports-loving fraternity will hope the minister’s words are backed by the wallet of government – the hard-earned taxes they themselves have paid.


Paralympians in fine fettle for medals 0

Posted on August 24, 2012 by Ken

Grace Hughes is the chief physiotherapist of the South African Paralympics team and, on the eve of the team’s departure, she was telling the media how well-prepared, fit and strong the squad are.

“I can tell you that we’ve had them all in my office doing special neck-strengthening exercises … “ she said … “because I’m honestly worried about how they’re going to cope with all those medals around their necks!”

It was a moment of humour that is typical of the Paralympics squad. The people who have the most to be unhappy about are some of the most joyous, inspiring people around, and “the pressure of expectation” seems to be a totally foreign concept for those for whom just playing sport is a major achievement.

But Hughes is right, South Africa are in line for plenty of medals at the Paralympics, which start in London on August 29.

South Africa’s 66 competitors won 30 medals in Beijing in 2008, 21 of them gold, to finish sixth in the final standings and will be looking to improve on that in London.

“I think 40 medals is possible, but our main aim is to maintain or improve on our sixth place overall in Beijing,” Sascoc CEO Tubby Reddy says.

Some of the greatest Paralympians of all time – most notably Oscar Pistorius and Natalie du Toit – are in Team South Africa and there will be a steward’s inquiry if they don’t come home with at least a couple of gold medals.

Seventeen-year-old Marike Naude is a rising star in the world of swimming and is competing in six events. There are high hopes for her, especially since she could be re-classified in London into an easier disability group.

Charles Bouwer is going to his third Paralympics and is also going to swim in six events, while looking to repeat his performance in the 2010 world championships, when he won silver in the 400m freestyle.

“I started in Athens when I was a 14-year-old and I thought I would stop in Beijing, so it’s unbelievable to be going to a third Paralympics,” Bouwer says.

The visually-impaired 22-year-old went to Pescara in Italy to train with the able-bodied Olympic swimmers and is clearly not one to back down from competition.

“Swimming six events in the S13 class, there’s going to be a lot of competition. But why go to an event and just win everything? It’s great to have the challenge,” Bouwer says.

Other swimmers to keep an eye on are the versatile Hendrick Herbst, 100m breaststroke veteran Tadgh Slattery, competing in an astonishing sixth Paralympics, Beijing world record setter Kevin Paul and Shireen Sapiro, who won gold in the 100m backstroke in Beijing.

Pistorius, given the fact that he is one of the top 16 400 metre runners in the world, should murder the opposition in the one-lap race, but he will have strong competition in the 100, 200 and 800 metre races.

Other hot athletics medal contenders are Dyan Buis, Hilton Langenhoven, who burst on the scene so spectacularly in 2008 with three gold medals, sprinters Fanie van der Merwe, Arnu Fourie and Teboho Mokgalagadi , Ilse Hayes (100m & long jump) and experienced javelin thrower Zanele Situ.

“The bulk of our medals tend to come from athletics and swimming and everybody who has been selected in the team has medal potential. It’s a very difficult team to get into,” Chef de Mission Pieter Badenhorst says.

“But in terms of new stars after Beijing, we have high hopes for Dian Buys, who is the world record-holder in the long jump, and Teboho Mokgalagadi.

“It’s notoriously difficult to predict how many medals we’ll get and the medals table is so congested and that one gold can make the difference between finishing fifth and 13th. Russia and Brazil have invested quite a lot now in their Paralympians and it will be hard to predict how they’ll do. But we have prepared as best we can,” the 1992 gold medallist in the 400m sprint says.

Team South Africa are also hoping for some medals from the other “smaller” sports they are competing in – cycling, equestrian, rowing, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis.

Cycling, with world champion Ernst van Dyk leading the way, and equestrian sports, featuring double gold-winner Philippa Johnson, are genuine medal hopes, while South Africa’s top wheelchair tennis player, KG Montjane, is in the top 10 of the world rankings.

South Africans are only just starting to fully embrace the Olympics after all those years of isolation, and it might yet take a while for the Paralympians to be fully appreciated.

But sports minister Fikile Mbalula has the right idea.

“Our Paralympians have led from the front and have never disappointed us. I stand here ashamed that the country has never given you the rightful credit.

“So bring that gold back that was stolen from our motherland. I don’t know if we’re going to nationalise it, but we want it back,” Mbalulu told the Paralympics farewell banquet in Sandton.

Cameron van der Burgh said the Olympic athletes “should take notes” from their disabled compatriots for the many challenges they overcome just to have the opportunities the able-bodied sportspeople take for granted.

The gold-winning swimmer said his most inspirational moment of the Olympics was seeing Pistorius get more applause than Usain Bolt; but Mbalulu may have been just a little over-enthusiastic when he described the Blade Runner as “the greatest human on earth”.

That’s what the Paralympics are about: sportsmen and women overcoming the stiffest of challenges just to compete on the biggest stage. The medals are a bonus, but something South Africans can certainly expect.


SA Olympic hopes boosted 0

Posted on March 26, 2012 by Ken

South Africa’s Olympic Games prospects were boosted on Friday as the Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) received over R80 million [9 million euro] from government and the National Lotteries Board (NLB) for preparations for London 2012.

Sascoc has previously complained that it has lived on scraps, leading to a decline in South Africa’s Olympic performance. Having won six medals in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, South Africa managed just a single medal – Khotso Mokoena’s long jump silver – in Beijing four years later.

Sports minister Fikile Mbalula handed over a cheque for R34 240 000 [3 980 000 euro] to Sascoc from the Department of Sports and Recreation at a breakfast function in Johannesburg on Friday, as a token of government’s support for the Olympic athletes.

“We are here today to offer our unwavering support to all our athletes who have qualified for the 2012 London Olympic Games. We do this to show our undivided support for the operational excellence of our athletes who are busy preparing for the London Games. This amount is an attempt to boost the morale and readiness of our team,” Mbalula told an audience of Sascoc executives, heads of federations, athletes and media.

Mbalula also used the occasion as an opportunity to invite corporate South Africa to support the Olympic effort.

“We believe that government cannot do this alone. We need all South Africans, especially our private sector, to come on board and contribute towards the success of our team in the Olympic Games. We hope the investment we make today will encourage the private sector to do likewise,” he said.

NLB chairman Alfred Nevhutanda said that, as an entity of the state, the lottery would support Mbalula’s initiative to ensure a winning Olympic team and donate R47.5 million [5.5 million euro] to Sascoc.

This is a steep increase from the NLB’s previous allocations of R14 million [1.6 million euro] in 2009/10 and R17 million [1.97 million euro] in 2010/11.

“We are humbled by this support  that will help achieve our athletes’ dreams of being Olympians. Minister Mbalula has been fully behind Sascoc and our Olympic effort since he came into office. I trust we will deliver and I’m confident that we can bring home 12 medals,” Sascoc first vice-president Hajera Kajee said.

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