SPORTS, POL­I­TICS LIKE TOUNGUE, SALIVA

Observer on Saturday - - Analysis - By Sa­belo Gwebu

SPORTS – Sports and pol­i­tics are in­ter­twined like the tongue and saliva. We all want to see sports solely as an arena of play, not se­ri­ous­ness. But here is the thing; this can cheapen not only the great­ness and rel­e­vance of sports to us as a so­ci­ety, but also the courage of the ath­letes.

One could not help but no­tice at least five sports names in the 63long list vy­ing for the 10 se­nate seats avail­able in the 11th par­lia­ment.

Sports diplo­macy de­scribes the use of sport as a means to in­flu­ence diplo­matic, so­cial, and po­lit­i­cal re­la­tions. Sports diplo­macy may tran­scend cul­tural dif­fer­ences and bring peo­ple to­gether.

Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans’ duty by its very na­ture is to im­ple­ment poli­cies and if all five of those nom­i­nated get the vote, it can only mean the sport­ing fra­ter­nity and its bot­tom­less hole of is­sues can be taken care of. It means these men can ad­vo­cate for an in­creased sports bud­get which stands at a mea­ger E8 mil­lion cur­rently, push for the facelift of Somhlolo Na­tional Sta­dium which has been rel­a­tively un­changed since In­de­pen­dence 50 years ago and all the other ills that af­fect sports devel­op­ment across all codes.

The use of sports and pol­i­tics has had both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive im­pli­ca­tions over his­tory. Sports com­pe­ti­tions have had the in­ten­tion to bring about change in cer­tain cases. Na­tion­al­is­tic en­thu­si­asm is some­times linked to vic­to­ries or de­feats in some sports.

Ex­am­ple

While the Olympics is of­ten the big­gest po­lit­i­cal ex­am­ple of us­ing sports for diplo­matic means, cricket and foot­ball, as well as other sports in the global arena, have also been used in this re­gard.

In the case of apartheid in neigh­bour­ing South Africa, sport was used to iso­late South Africa and bring about a ma­jor over­haul in that coun­try’s so­cial struc­ture. While back­ground and race can cause divi­sion, sports can also help blend dif­fer­ences.

Agenda

Pol­i­tics and sports can never be di­vided and so now we know. Be it as it may be, we have had well known sports­men get­ting seats in par­lia­ment but of­fered lit­tle if noth­ing at all in push­ing the sports agenda. Then that wor­ries me as a sports journalist and do not even want to men­tion the rest of this sports-mad na­tion.

Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties

Just like it hap­pens with many of these leg­is­la­tors across all the Tinkhundla cen­tres where they for­get about the elec­torate im­me­di­ately they as­sume of­fice- these men have not been in­flu­en­tial in sports is­sues. Sports, some may ar­gue is a drop in the ocean to other govern­ment’s so­cial re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and ma­jor cap­i­tals which are to trans­form this tiny king­dom to first world sta­tus at least by the year 2022 but in re­al­ity, the power of sports in this drive can­not be over­looked.

His Majesty King Mswati III seem­ingly has been the first to re­alise the power of this at­tract­ing mag­net called ‘sports’ with the in­cep­tion of Ing­wenyama Cup (a foot­ball knock­out tour­na­ment that brings to­gether foot­ball and cul­ture, blend­ing it to some beau­ti­ful spec­ta­cle as seen over the past three years) and the Im­bube Marathon (which brings to­gether ath­letes from across the re­gion and lo­cals of all sizes, ages and shapes to road run­ning).

The king is the brain­child be­hind this events and hop­ing these men vy­ing for se­nate seats have been fol­low­ing keenly and can now bring an over­haul to sports as a whole. Be­ing in pol­i­tics means power and power means in­flu­ence.

The House of Assem­bly al­ready has a fair share of sports peo­ple from former Min­is­ter of Sports, Cul­ture and Youth Af­fairs David ‘Cruiser’ Ng­cam­pha­lala to former se­nior foot­ball na­tional team Sih­langu coach Har­ries ‘Madze’ Bu­lunga along with former elite league side Mat­sapha United boss Vic­tor Malambe.

We can only hope these gen­tle­men can bring about the needed change in sports and start by look­ing at the crit­i­cal is­sues within each code if this coun­try is to be mar­keted well across the globe amid plenty of tal­ent in its dis­posal.

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