By Julius Senyimba
Just like the complex question of which came first; the chicken or the egg, Uganda Boxing Federation boss Moses Muhangi has argued that developing sports infrastructure is more important than winning medals.
“The medals are good for the prestige of the country and the individual, but beyond the medals, people are living terrible lives. And we have a good number of them who keep appearing on media platforms,” he told journalists recently.
Muhangi cited the example of boxers Juma Miiro, a Commonwealth games medalist and Hellen Baleke, who bagged a medal at the All Africa Games, who live in the ghetto and recently battled floods.
“These are sports ambassadors whom young ones look up to.”
The vocal sports administrator went on to argue that a medal can’t enable one buy goods from a shop or groom talent at the grassroots level.
“Which supermarket can you go to and present an Olympic gold medal and they give you a kilogramme of sugar?” he wondered.
Muhangi suggested that Uganda takes a break from international competitions and instead uses the billions of shillings allocated to the sports sector to improve infrastructure.
“Over sh5b was spent on the Olympics, more billions are going to be spent on the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, but back home, we have nothing to show.”
While other countries had national trails to select the best athletes, it was not the case for Uganda. The sportsmen and women had to board planes to qualify for the games in Tokyo.
“Our athletes have been in heaven and now they are back in hell, with no rings, gyms or facilities in stadiums. We can’t keep running away from this. The Government has to come in and evaluate the situation because we have the potential to qualify a good number of athletes and win more medals in the future if we solve this puzzle.”
The ongoing Joshua Cheptegei fundraising drive to complete his training facility is a justification that indeed a medal can’t shape the future, but facilities can. And if the gold and silver medalist at the Tokyo Olympics is pushing for it, then it should be akin to a wake-up call for the National Council of Sports, sports ministry and the Government at large.