Zim athletes suffer as sponsorship withdrawn 07-12-06)

Posted on December 8, 2006 by


HARARE – Liberty Nike and Mr Price have withdrawn their sponsorship of athletics, rendering scores of local athletes jobless.
For former Turnall athlete, James Chamunorwa, who was contracted to Liberty Nike for the last six years, it’s the beginning of another nightmare. The club indicated it would pay his last salary on 31 December – leaving him to face the harsh reality of Zimbabwean life.
The withdrawal of Liberty Nike’s sponsorship has rocked the already embattled Zimbabwe athletics community, many of whom had trekked to South Africa in search of contracts from the high-paying clubs.
“Its a big blow to the athletes because we would always draw our salary every month from the club even if you are not running. We were also entitled to a bonus of R300 in the event of winning a race. I am a clubless now,” Chamunorwa said.
South Africa has become the modern day El Dorado for Zimbabwe’s long distance athletes with the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe clearing an average of 20 athletes to compete in the cash-rich races across the Limpopo.
“We clear these athletes for certain periods depending on their visas. We also clear some athletes to compete in South Africa to gain exposure. The athletes are first cleared by their boards before NAAZ endorse their trips. We have several athletes like Lewis Masunda and Thabita Tsatsa who are attached to top South Africa clubs like Harmony Gold. They go to South Africa to compete and come back home during the off-season (November-December),” said Cynthia Phiri, secretary of the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe.
David Leboho, the NAAZ treasurer confirmed that most long distance athletes were opting to compete in South Africa because it was highly lucrative.
He added that NAAZ was also collecting 10 percent of their earnings, which went towards the development of disadvantaged athletes at home.
“There is an influx of Zimbabwe athletes in South Africa. They are a thorn in the flesh for the South Africans because they are dominating most of the races like the Comrades Marathon, City to City and Two Oceans. The South Africans are not happy but there is nothing they can do about it. Currently there is now law in place prohibiting the number of foreigners who should compete in their races,’ Leboho said.
Some of the athletes who have made South Africa their second home are Kudakwashe Kanduna, Thabita Tsatsa, Rutendo Nyahoza, Samukeliso Moyo, Marko Mambo, Oliver Kandiero, Elmore Sibanda.
Meanwhile South African clothing retail giant, Mr Price has also pulled the plug on athletics sponsorship.
Zimbabwean athletes who are plying their trade at Mr Price are Elijah Mutandiro, Collen Makaza, Hatiwande Nyamande, Wellington Chidodo and Paul Mhizha. – CAJ News

Posted in: Africa