Mbaks rescues SA athletes

sadg Mbaks rescues SA athletes

. . . as athletes back Sascoc and take a swipe at ASA.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula this week came to athletes’ rescue as the standoff between the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) and Athletics SA (ASA) continues.

After meeting with Sascoc on Friday, it was agreed that the nation’s university track and field and road running athletes should be allowed to participate at the World Student Games in Kazan, Russia, next month.

Earlier in the week, Sascoc had threatened to prevent athletes from participating at the student games after it suspended ASA.

Sascoc president Gideon Sam announced the decision, stating that ASA athletes would not be included in the Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Youth Games, Anoca Youth Games,

Zone VI Games, All Africa Games, the Olympic Games and Olympic Youth Games, and would also be removed from Sascoc’s Operation Excellence programme, which provides funding and support.

Yesterday, Sam said he couldn’t comment as he was not part of the meeting on Friday.

The minister’s spokesperson, Paena Galane, said the meeting resolved that the affected athletes should honour their engagements.

Furthermore, he said athletes who were already overseas would not be affected by the suspension.

“We don’t want our athletes to suffer as a result of this, hence we agreed their programmes should not be affected,” said Galane.

“It was a cordial meeting and the minister made it clear he wanted to see the matter resolved.”

Galane said the minister had requested a meeting with the ASA board tomorrow to get their side of the story.

He also said Mbalula might travel to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) head offices in Monaco to brief its leadership about how sport in South Africa is governed. This was after Sascoc was put in its place by the international athletics federation.

Sascoc suspended ASA president James Evans and the entire board in April for infringing provisions of the Olympic body’s constitution.

Zola Majavu was appointed as interim ASA administrator, with Sascoc giving him 120 days to help the embattled federation clear its mounting debt. But the IAAF said it did not recognise Majavu and would continue to recognise the ASA board.

“It is important for the IAAF to know how sports is governed in the country and, for this reason, the minister is considering going to brief them just like he did with Fifa,” said Galane.

A senior ASA official, who did not want to be identified, said what was happening was just a storm in a teacup. He said cool heads were needed to resolve the standoff. “Some of us have gone underground waiting for the storm to pass.”

The official said Sascoc was just flexing its muscles after being put in its place by the IAAF.

“They are still bitter and angry after the IAAF told them where to get off . . . now they are taking it out on us,” he said.

“Things will be back to normal soon. It’s only us who can fix it because we are the ones who created this mess.”

But some senior athletes have come out in support of Sascoc, saying that the body had done more in a year than ASA could ever have.

Ofentse Mogawane, a 400m athlete, had choice words for Evans, saying he was blocking the progress made by Majavu.

“James Evans is the one who is f***ing things up. Most South African athletes who are in Europe are there because of Sascoc. (This) because they can’t pay for their own flights and accommodation.

“Sascoc is assisting athletes from their own budget,” said an angry Mogawane.

Commonwealth Games javelin champion Sunette Viljoen was more diplomatic, saying that she did not want to get involved in the spat. She hoped Sascoc and ASA would sort out their differences because athletes were the unintentional victims of their war.

Sprinter Simon Magakwe said: “Majavu was going to do good things for all athletes, because he understands sports as a whole and he knows what athletes require.

“He had ambition and good plans for ASA and I think he was going to turn it around. We suffered during the SA athletics season because there was no Yellow Pages; these competitions put bread on our tables.”



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