The Namibia Karate Federation (NKF) shattered nearly 50 karatekas’ hopes of competing for honours at the recent 2023 Region 5 Championship in Zimbabwe.
The athletes, some who are the best in the country in their categories, were unable to afford the ‘luxury’ private mode of transport to Harare arranged by the federation.
Each athlete was expected to fork out N$13 800 for the trip to the games, which took place from 8 to 11 June
Initially, 100 karatekas were due to represent Namibia at the just-concluded regional championship, however, only 51 karatekas managed to travel because they could afford.
The majority of affected athletes hail from Oshikoto and Oshana regions with a smaller contingent from the ||Kharas.
Speaking to Desert Radio on Wednesday, NKF’s president Llewyllen Manale said a meeting was held between the management and team managers who collectively decided to decline transport provided for by the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service in favour of the private option.
“A vote was taken and a decision was made that that is what management was asking. In essence, that came from the management side who decided they will change the mode of transport to suit the comfort of the athletes,” said Manale.
The Region 5 Games took place at the Harare International Conference Centre last week.
Responding to a query on the matter, the Namibia Sport Commission’s chief administrator Freddy Mwiya, who holds a black belt in karate, said he was disappointed, because traditionally the athletes from the sidelined regions represent the talent stronghold in the country.
The provision of government transport would have significantly reduced costs, said Mwiya who believes the quality of the team was compromised as a result.
Namibia ended fourth overall.
“We cannot be beaten by the likes of Zambia and Zimbabwe, as our bitter competitor has always been South Africa. We won a lot of bronze medals and maybe two gold medals, that is injustice to the sport,” Mwiya charged.
Manale acknowledged that the discriminatory decision restricted the team’s output.
“Some who did not make the trip were gold medallists in their respective disciplines. It is good quality athletes who are always the ones that cannot afford financially and that forces them (athletes) not to attend certain championships,” said Manale.
“So it does affect athletes because he/she knows that the podium position could have been his/hers because the athletes were unable to attend the championship, and the fact that somebody else got the accolade for something which the athletes knows rightfully in Namibia that he or she is the number in a specific discipline.”
As a remedy, Manale added that they will establish a “commercial committee” to seek sponsors in order to accommodate all athletes.
“We want to remain in good faith and in good standing by making sure that it does not become like we say ‘affordability team’,” Manale said.