Sports: Development through physical activity

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Sport : l'activité physique du développement Sport : l'activité physique du développement

The first match of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) kicked off on January 9, 2022.  But well beyond soccer, the match also signaled the beginning of a season of opportunity. Judging from the number of clicks on social media, and the size of the television audiences, the interest shown by Africans in this great celebration of soccer was considerable. I know this only too well. As a journalist working for CRTV, Cameroon’s national television station, I experienced the tournament on the pitch and in the stands. 

For me, and for so many others, this African Cup of Nations marked a memorable and heartwarming time, when I felt not only a sense of community, but became aware of a wave of tolerance, acceptance, and solidarity. Soccer has become a universal language. Cameroonians sang the Egyptian national anthem, and all Africa stood up and cheered the Comorian team after their wonderful performance against Cameroon. For a time, in the midst of this sacred cultural and emotional union, social and political tensions were relegated to the sidelines. There was less talk about security problems in the crisis-torn regions of the North-West, South-West, and Far North. 

And the impact of AFCON was felt far beyond the soccer pitch. The new wave of calm  that AFCON brought to Cameroon also served to ease, for a time, discriminatory practices against women. In a traditionally male-dominated sport, women played a prominent role on television; in discussion forums, working as sports commentators, but also on the pitch, with FIFA referee Salima Mukansanga as a notable example. A shining example. Especially for young girls deprived of an education, particularly in the northern regions of the country where, according to UNESCO, 31.9% of girls are undereducated. Aliou Goloko, CAF press secretary, has revealed that many young people contacted him for information on career prospects in soccer. There were more queries from girls than from boys. 

The importance of the tournament on social networks has also led to an increase in the numbers of internet users. The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications could seize this opportunity to launch awareness-raising campaigns on the appropriate use of social media, in order to develop a constructive relationship with the youth and fight against anti-social behavior online. 

Moreover, the tournament has brought clear economic benefits in terms of infrastructure, hotels, roads, and stadiums. 

Beyond these positive impacts, one can only imagine the potential effect of sports on development, and its influence on the education sector in particular. 

For the young, sports are a source of inspiration.  In Cameroon, basketball players like Joël Embiid and Pascal Siakam who play in the NBA, UFC world champion Francis Ngannou, famous soccer player and president of the Cameroonian Football Federation Samuel Eto’o Fils are all icons who have shown how sports can serve as a means of upward social mobility, especially for marginalized youth.    

Job opportunities in the field of sports are not only intended for athletes. There are many sports-related careers, such as that of sports educator, physical and sports education teacher, trainer , physiotherapist, journalist, event organizer, marketing executive, sports agent, etc. It is important that young people be made aware of these opportunities, that specially adapted training courses be incorporated into the education system, and that the youth be encouraged to pursue them. 

These ideas do not apply only to my own country. They are a call to all the countries of Africa, which face the same development challenges. When we play together as one team, we will be unbeatable in the face of our common enemy: poverty.

Laurence Okalia is the 2021 Blog4Dev winner from Cameroon


Laurence Okalia

Lauréate au concours Blog4Dev 2021 pour le Cameroun

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