EDITORIAL: Sports officials should put interests of athletes and Rwanda first

We all aspire to live in a healthy, fair, tolerant, safe, prosperous and peaceful society.

Sport promotes health, provides social contacts and contributes to self-development. Rwanda Cycling Federation (Ferwacy) makes an essential contribution to this goal by enabling and helping cyclists, many of who are vulnerable and marginalised, to play an active and productive part in society.

Indeed, cycling is a skilled profession that offers a unique service to individuals, families and communities.

The federation nonetheless remains in the spotlight for allegations of mismanagement and failing to address the welfare of the cyclists.

On November 7, 14 riders left the Africa Rising Cycling Centre in Musanze after their attempt to be paid $3,000 (Rwf2.2 million) before competing in the upcoming Tour du Rwanda was declined by Ferwacy.

This week’s scandal has only added fuel to the fire of disdain for the federation among cycling enthusiasts. This was the third time the national cycling team was engaging in a strike in an effort to demand money. The previous strikes were held in 2011 and 2014.

The majority of the cyclists are dissatisfied with the federation’s mismanagement.

But while the cyclists are demanding for more pay, the federation can do more to motivate the sportsmen by addressing their welfare.

Sportsmen and women work hard to make this country proud they deserve to be rewarded accordingly. We must provide the most promising athletes with the support they need to achieve their potential.

Rwanda’s sport sector has set its sights on achieving a big ambition. Of course it is not limiting itself any longer to merely increasing the rate of sports participation, nor to a steady increase in the number of elite medals won.

The country’s goal should be to firmly commit to the aspiration that we can achieve bigger, better outcomes by stretching ourselves.

This necessitates radical thinking around how sport is planned, offered and promoted.

Its appeal needs to be wider, deeper and capable of sustaining interest and passion right through to adulthood.

It is important that all those in a position to play a role ensure that children, young people and adults are participating in sport and, where appropriate, have the support to excel.

This can only happen, however, if those in leadership positions in sports federations take their work seriously and have the interests of the sportsmen and women at heart.