Mr President, please also bail out our athletes

Wednesday May 13 2020
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A screen grab of President Uhuru Kenyatta speaking from State House, Nairobi on April 6, 2020. He announced a new raft of measures aimed at combating the spread of Covid-19. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By BARNABA KORIR

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive that Sh100m from the Sports Fund be allocated to the artists across the country to cushion them from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic was a welcome boon to the Kenyan youth in the entertainment industry.

However, we hope this does not end there. It’s my hope that this humane and noble gesture will be extended to the sporting industry which is at a virtual standstill since the government’s order stopping public gatherings to fight the spread of coronavirus.

Athletics, which is mainly an individual sport, has bore the brunt of the pandemic that has ravaged communities across the globe. A recent estimate revealed that Kenyan athletes stand to lose billions of shillings in earnings due to the shutdown.

The track season had only just begun with the first leg of the lucrative Diamond League earlier set for Doha this month cancelled alongside other meets.

This has had an adverse effect on the economic situation of many athletes. While the elite athletes may survive the current situation due to their endorsement deals and past earnings, the same can’t be said of their lesser-known compatriots who were hoping to reap financial benefits by being successful on the track or on the roads.

FAILED

All their hopes have come a cropper at the worst possible moment — the start of the season. Unlike in other sports, athletes have no salaries or monthly wages to rely on in circumstances such as this. Further, with no guarantees as to when sports will resume, athletes have to formulate individual programmes within the public safety and health directives given by the government to stay fit.

Unlike in the sponsored training camps, the individual training session will require personal resources. Recently, we saw athletes arrested at a training camp in Iten for going against the ban on public gatherings.

It’s worth noting that like other sportsmen, athletes are eager to keep fit for any eventualities should normal competition schedules resume.

For this reason, the Ministry of Sports should liaise with Athletics Kenya to find a way in which the athletes can be supported. Most of them are the breadwinners for their young families and with no competition, no earnings come there way.

This can have an adverse effect on their overall well-being and especially their mental health as depression may set in. Ambassador Amina Mohamed should come to the rescue with financial incentives to curb the debilitating economic effect of the coronavirus pandemic.

Korir is Athletics Kenya’s Nairobi branch chairman. [email protected]