Senior Sports Reporter
JUNIOR sport development, particularly schools sport, continue to suffer due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This development, although it ensures school children are safe during the pandemic, will affect budding athletes.
They have already missed the National Secondary School Heads and National Association of Primary School Heads calendar.
When schools closed early in March, the athletics season, which was underway, was halted with the provincial, and national competitions, being called off.
The ball games did not take place as well, including the traditional tournaments such as the Copa Cola-Cola Games.
NASH president, Arthur Maphosa, said this was a missed opportunity.
“Our learners have been affected big time. Ball games, which normally take centre stage in term Two and Three, have been shelved.
“Covid-19 has dealt a body blow to our athletes.
“Imagine, missing the most exciting sports event on the Nash calendar, such as the Under-15 Copa Coca-Cola football games?
“Athletes missed monetary prizes and missed opportunities of being selected into the football Coca-Cola Dream Team, which travels annually to East Africa, for regional finals.
“For the first time, our boys reached the finals last year.
“We had hoped to get to the finals again in 2020 to avenge that painful defeat to Tanzania in 2019.
“It is every young player’s dream to represent his, or her country, and to fly in an airplane to different places.
“That the feel-good factor was thwarted by the pandemic and some learners will be above 15 in 2021.
“They will never again play in the Coca-Cola finals, it hurts,” said Maphosa.
Maphosa said the missed opportunities will have ripple effects for the athletes.
“Girls netball missed the lucrative Under-17 Tanganda tournament, which is held annually under the Stella Tea brand.
“This is another chance lost and it is at this tournament where the Confederation of School Sport Associations of Southern Africa team is selected.
‘’Most of the Netball World Cup (Gems) squad, who shone in Liverpool, are products of this tournament.
“Proton and Surrey sponsors boys Under-20 football and Premier Soccer League coaches always converge at these tournaments, to pick talent, so this is another lost opportunity for the boys team.’’
NAAZ president, Tendai Tagara, said they lost a generation which could not attend the World Junior Championships in Kenya.
“We have lost a generation that could not attend the World Junior Champs in Kenya, due to Covid-19,’’ he said.
‘’Time does not wait.
“They are now over 20 years.
“Lost time is lost and cannot be regained. However, we are working to create a new team for World Juniors in Kenya.
“We want to have them in camp in December, if funds permit.
“Schools sport is a key component of the development programmes for athletics.
‘’The school handles our kids’ athletics age-group 5 to 9 years, cadets 10 to 15 years, youths 16 to 18 years and juniors 18 to 20 years.
“That’s why there is a very strong relationship between us and NAPH and NASH.
“We have made sure the heads in charge of athletics at various levels, from circuits/zones, districts, provincial and national sit in our structures.
“Whoever does not recognise the role of those teachers, handling athletes at the various levels, is lost in terms of athletics development.”