YOUTH, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry has clarified the remarks she made on Saturday regarding athletes who want to represent Zimbabwe at the Olympic Games.
The follows concerns by members of the public and stakeholders over remarks that no athlete will represent Zimbabwe at the Olympic Games if they have not represented the country, at least, three years prior to the Olympic Games.
But Coventry clarified the position.
“Hie everyone so I just want to clarify exactly what I was talking about to the national federations yesterday (Saturday) in terms of representing Zimbabwe.
“In the past, we have had athletes who are not born in Zimbabwe, who don’t have a link to Zimbabwe but they have a grandparent or a relative that is Zimbabwean and they have been living in the UK, they are born in US, they are born abroad they suddenly realise they are not gonna make the Olympic Games for those countries that they are born into.
“So, they, (at the) last minute, come to Zimbabwe and somehow get a passport which is suspicious, and they then take money away, scholarship money away from Zimbabwean athletes, they go to the Olympic Games, they don’t actually do very well and then we never hear from them again,” said Coventry in a Twitter video on Sunday.
Some national sport associations who spoke to The Herald yesterday were in agreement with the minister.
Hockey Association of Zimbabwe president, Grant Campbell, said one has to be involved in the process not just to appear when it suits their interests.
“I think if you want to represent Zimbabwe you must be a Zimbabwean, you must have played for Zimbabwe and then you are entitled to represent Zimbabwe.
“So, from our point of view, we are fully supportive of all these initiatives and have been in the past. “I firmly believe that you can train and you can advance yourself wherever you want. But if you want to represent your country you must be available to come back and represent your country both in preparation and the actual competition, not just to come back for the competition itself,” said Campbell.
National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe president, Tendai Tagara is of the same view.
“The minister is right . . . Olympics are in 2020, qualify for the World Championships 2019, attend Africa Senior Championships in 2018, feel the home and Africa experience. “The issue is some of the athletes try to push into the teams of the countries they are staying in or were born, when they fail they want to come to Zimbabwe.
“We are not getting the best but left overs. They just need to show they are Zimbabweans from the onset,” said Tagara.
Zimbabwe Aquatic Union president Mary Kloppers said there was need for athletes to be loyal to their country.