During these uncertain times, you are probably sitting on your couch at home watching Netflix or playing videogames because there is nowhere you can go. Everything has come to a standstill thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and sporting events are not exceptional.
2020 was supposed to be a big year for athletics, one of the major events being the Olympics, which has since been postponed.
The first half of the year was supposed to see African athletes participate in several world half marathon and world indoor championships, which have now been suspended indefinitely.
There are also the African Athletics Championships that were supposed to be held in June, but they are now slated for an unknown date in 2021.
How are African athletes, especially those who are starting out coping financially with no championships to participate in?
All African athletes, including those who have won tens of medals in the past, agree that these are hard times for everyone, and they are all feeling the pinch.
The athletes’ training schedules have been disrupted big time, with some countries such as South Africa, Ethiopia, and Kenya closing down major training camps.
Iten is one of the most famous high-altitude training camps in the world located in the Rift valley, Kenya. However, this bustling camp is now deserted, and its star is dwindling fast.
According to Dennis Kipngeno, a Kenyan marathon runner who ran his personal best in March this year, Iten is now a boring town, and there is no motivation since teamwork is now a distant dream.
Since the return dates for competitions are unclear, maintaining focus is a challenge that athletes in Africa will need to contend with.
How do athletes in Africa make money?
Athletes make money through a myriad of ways. However, there are three major ways in which income is generated:
- Through sponsors
- Through appearance fees
- Through prize money or bonuses earned from races
Thousands of African athletes have no sponsors and are not paid appearance fees; thus, they only depend on prize money to keep their lives going. Basically, just like if you were a baseball player without any club affiliated on the MLB odds. So, if you have no club to sponsor you and pay you a regular salary, you can only count on competition’s prize money.
Even those who have sponsors have nothing to smile about since sponsors might soon pull out from games that do not bring income.
These difficult financial times for athletes are also a considerable burden for thousands of families who depend on them.
It’s now clear that COVID-19 is going nowhere any soon, even as scientists race against time to develop a vaccine. Meanwhile, African athletes have no option but to plan for a tough couple of months.
Some federations across Africa have made several arrangements to cushion athletes from this financial catastrophe. For instance, Ethiopia has released $130,000, funds that are set to help 211 athletes, and 56 coaches.
The World Athletics, formally known as IAAF, also launched a $500,000 fund to help professional athletes who lost their income as a result of the pandemic.
Those athletes with sponsors and shoe contracts hope that their sponsors will stay, even if it is with less money, until the sporting action resume.
But even when races resume, experts say that athletes, including those from Africa, will still lose a lot of money. This is because most races will be bunched closer in the calendar, meaning athletes will have to miss some of the marathons, half-marathons, and road races they had earlier aimed to participate.
In 2020, it’s tough being an athlete, especially in Africa, where athletes are not given much support from their respective governments, especially when they are not in action representing their countries. However, everyone hopes that we shall all win the war against this unseen enemy, and the sporting action will return in no time.