TILKA SPEAKS OUT ON COMMONWEALTH BEHIND THE SCENES PERKS STRUGGLES
My fellow Zambians. As many of you are aware, over the past few weeks I have been representing the nation at the Commonwealth Games in the United Kingdom. During the course of the Games I have been honoured to have competed alongside the best and brightest althetes from Zambia.
On Saturday the 6th we were joined at the Commonwealth games by Mr Kangwa Chileshe, the permanent secretary to the ministry of sport. He called the athletes to meet with him outside the village for a talk.
The purpose of this talk was for Mr Chileshe to voice his displeasure with the recent behaviour of certain athletes who had been posting on social media about not having been paid their allowances, despite many of the team already having been at the Games for several weeks.
He then stated that the altheltes should feel honoured to be chosen to be at the games because there are thousands of other people in Zambia that are just as good as they are and that we must realise that we are not special and we can be replaced.
He went on to say that the only reason why we want the money is to go shopping and we must concentrate on our sport rather than worrying about money, we should be grateful that we have a place to sleep, water to drink and food to eat.
The comments made by Mr Chileshe deeply upset many of the altheltes present and represented a stark level of ignorance and disrespect.
They forget that many of the athletes on the team have taken unpaid leave from their jobs to represent their country. Some athletes have families that rely on them to provide money for food and pay bills. Even worse there were some athletes in the village that couldn’t even afford to buy bathing soap and other athletes had to help out.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, the ministry and the people within it need to realise that we are the reason they have a job and we are the reason why they are at the Games with us. We are the ones that have dedicated our lives to our sport and worked tirelessly to qualify in order to represent Zambia on the global stage.
To summon us and tell us off like children and disrespect us like that was beyond anything I have ever experienced.
He looked at some of our leading sprinters and said that there are thousands of people that can run as fast as them in Zambia, so they must not feel special. He said there are thousands of people in Zambia that can swim as fast as me.
The Government’s role is to provide their athletes with everything we need, in and out of competition. To motivate their athletes and encourage them, instead of shoving “bring back medals” down our throats. The government’s position is to support the athletes and make sure that the media does not demoralise and unfairly criticise the athletes in headlines such as “Rhoda fails to qualify for finals” instead of “Rhoda finishes 4ths in her semi final with a personal best”
It’s things like this that the government needs to do to take care of their athletes if they really do want us to win medals. Many of us on the team lost moral after that talk.
I honestly can’t believe that we have someone like Mr Chileshe as our ministry representative, mistreating and talking down to athletes. We as athletes are tired. I’m tired. I’ve been representing Zambia since I was 11 years old, I’ve dedicated my life to swimming and representing my country, to be told that I am replaceable. I am hurt and I’m beat down.
Following the meeting on Saturday the 6th, I have contacted the national Olympic Committee to inform them of Mr Chileshe’s comments. Unfortunately, I have not received any feedback or indication of an apology.
I’ve dedicated most of my life to my sport and am proud to represent Zambia on the global stage. I hope that the people of Zambia are also proud of the World Class athletes who put in the thousands of hours of training in order to wear the Zambian colours.
I feel ashamed that our elected officials are treating this passion and dedication with such distain and ignorance. It is the people of Zambia who decide our Governent officials and we hold the power. Us athletes do not believe this is the message that the people of Zambian want to be telling their athletes. It is for this reason, I have decided to share the facts with the people and allow Zambia to voice its own opinion.
We are the best in the country. We are the best on the continent. We are not greedy. We are not complacent. We are not replaceable. We are proud to represent Zambia.
But most importantly, we are human.