Track & Field News of Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Source: Cameroon Tribune

Professionalism, a Tall Dream in Athletics

Owing to meagre resources and lack of vision, professional athletics is farfetched.

The dream of professionalism within the athletics federation seems to be a very tall one for Cameroon given the lack of infrastructure, incentives for athletes, lack of vision by federation officials and most of all, the lack of financial means to make the dream become a reality. Though Cameroon has won two Olympic gold medals in athletics, it is only the tip of the iceberg in that it conceals the amateurism in which the federation wallows. Before delving into the intricacies of the issue, it is necessary to determine the connotation of the word professionalism.

Professionalism simply means, one can earn a living either as an athlete or official of the athletics federation. For this to happen, the sport discipline has to attain a level of social recognition that lures the public and sponsors to the sports discipline as these are the main sources of income for the federation. It also entails the availability of structures for the practice of this sport and incentives for the athletes. Whereas in Cameroon, apart from the reunification stadium in Douala and the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde, there are no athletics tracts in stadiums across the country. More so, athletes are given derisory sums for medals won, which is no encouragement. For instance, during the just ended central African championship in Yaounde, athletes from the northern part of the country were given a meagre sum of FCFA 16,000, not enough to cover even their transport cost. The others were simply requested to go back home empty handed.

There are no scholarships for promising athletes so as to enable them combine education with sports and this leads many budding athletes to abandon their career early. There is the absence of medical cover as athletes take care of themselves when they incur an injury. Insurance is sought only for major races like the Mount Cameroon Race of Hope. This situation has made athletes to either feign for themselves or look for greener pastures elsewhere where the training conditions are better and the welfare of the athletes taken into consideration. It is as such, Cameroon's lone flag bearer at the international scene in athletics; Françoise Mbango abandoned Cameroon to take up the French nationality.