Listening to one of our local sportscasts some time back, I couldn’t help but think that we were clearly missing out on some ‘real action’, no pun intended. As it has now become customary in the local media’s sports news, the story of the day was a one sided collage of intrigues, internal politics and unsubstantiated allegations.
Much to my surprise, not much during that show was dedicated to the ‘Rwamagana cross country race’ they were supposed to be covering. Instead, the listener was served with what appeared to me as an orchestrated character assassination attempt, duplicated on various other radio stations.
How did we ever stoop so low as a country? When did this kind of situation on both ends of the spectrum-media and sports-become the norm rather than the exception that confirms the rule? My theory on this is that the progressive and intellectual minds of Rwanda have abandoned the sports scene to the nearsighted and narrow-minded few whose lack of education and/or exposure hinder them to see the enormous business and entertaining potential of the industry left in their care.
I will be the first one to admit that I have been so busy focusing on current affairs of the socio-political kind that I never really gave the world of sports and its media counterpart the time of day they deserve.
I am therefore not trying to lay blame nor cast stones, but rather trying to identify a problem hoping we can find a solution together as an industry. Unfortunately, our local media have done very little to help the fledgling state of affairs the sports industry finds itself in.
I mistakenly thought that our sportscasters would take as examples the likes of media heavyweights such as Supersports and ESPN and ‘celebrate sport’ rather than focus on counter-productive negativity.
In the interest of fairness, though, I will say that The New Times (TNT) has behaved well in that respect, keeping us informed in a fairly professional way.
The same can unfortunately not be said of most of our sports colleagues; they stand for the most part at the opposite end of the spirit of ‘sport celebration’.
Even more disturbing is the accusatory tone, favored by most of them when talking to or about the various actors in the industry whose positions do not warrant such blatant lack of respect.
It is as if they see themselves as judges in the supreme court of sports, handing guilty verdicts to anyone who dares defy their self-proclaimed authority on national sports matters.
Our national sport scene is bleeding. On that we can agree, it is not delivering at the appropriate pace.
So why would you kick a man who is already down? This reminds me of a famous quote from Reverend Jesse Jackson who once advised never to look down on anyone unless you are helping him up; Food for thought.
So coming back to the subject at hand, what’s wrong with our local sports? How can a nation scoring so high in so many areas of development be unable to register the same kind of success in sports? Let’s face it; if our country is chosen to help organize and host so many international sporting events, it is due to the overwhelming success we’ve had in all development against all odds, no thanks to our sports leagues or federations.
Truth be told, our federations are lacking capacity; Capacity to connect and embrace the general global trends that are bound to help in terms of wealth creation opportunities for the people in that industry.
All we have been able to witness so far is people inside federations performing at minimum speed, behavior typically seen amongst public servants.
They are forever waiting for a per diem in order to produce the slightest effort, and we all know it; nothing new under that sun.
There is no innovation, no vision of management. We do not see sports as a world of opportunities.
And still we are at this privilege moment in time where the leadership of our country is committed to giving it the needed support; I guess because it is aware of the potential. The talent is there, a whole nation. What is missing is the managerial skills and policy innovation in order to deal with the lack of capacity.
It is in my opinion interesting to note that the best working federations are the ones headed by people who also deliver in other fields; Those who understand the importance of approaching the world of sports with enough passion to inspire and the right strategic plan to make it a profitable industry.
It is in that respect that I wish to invite each and every one of us who understands how important it is to get our national sports and the media reporting on it at a more satisfactory level not to neglect this key component of the creative industry. There is no good explanation why we are not delivering as a nation.
And the Ministry of Sports, together with all stakeholders needs to take a deep breath and rethink the national models in order to deliver in sync with the 2020 vision. There’s an opportunity to deliver on wealth creation, and we must embrace it with open arms.
Sports need media like media need sport. Let’s make this a match made in heaven.