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Out of Africa

RESPECTED: Cheruiyot

IT IS all too easy to get lost in the crowd especially at a time when standing out conjures a sense of rebellion.

African sportswomen have risen up to acknowledge and claim their stake in the continent’s sports.

For too long African sports awards have showcased the male contribution with the role of women merely a symbolic inclusion or an afterthought to avoid accusations of sexism.

Women who annually struggle in the sports scene and grace the podium as either Sportswoman of the Year or Footballer of the Year merely sip the sweetness of the celebration and rarely enjoy the rewards that accompany such accolades.

The recognition of Nigerian football star Perpetua Nkwocha, treble-winner of the African Player of the Year award, pales into insignificance when placed alongside that of sportsmen who have yet to win a single accolade.

The relative appreciation of women’s football may account for this deficit in plaudits, but then what of sports such as athletics in which both men and women share the same arena and most times the same audience?

No doubt, the wind of adjustment is gradually gathering and with time, it will blow with an intensity that may shake sport to a new reality.

Interestingly, the catalyst for this fresh vigour of appreciation can be traced to those who not only set the agenda for sports but also make judgments on performance.

Sadly, Nkwocha’s admirably suave soccer skills will not be on show during London 2012.

Despite her solid goal scoring throughout the women’s version of the African Nations Cup, Nkwocha will not lead her team, the Super Falcons of Nigeria, to the Olympics football arena.


RECOGNITION: Nkwocha

The team lost their last game on penalties to eventual qualifiers Cameroon, who await confirmation of their opponents at a Wembley Stadium draw to be held soon.

As the fever of London 2012 spreads, the Union of Africa Women Sports Reporters (UFRESA) further their mission of “encouraging the continent’s talented women often overshadowed by their men’s sporting feat”.

UFRESA (Union des Femmes Reporters Sportives d’Afrique) - a refreshing initiative drawing strength from over 300 members - went to town with its maiden awards ceremony in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, a city desperate to regain its idyllic past and touristic appeal after the pervasive neglect provoked by long civil strife.

It was truly a ladies night in the Ivorian port city and fitting that the finest of track stars, Vivian Cheruiyot, was crowned the first ever Africa Female Athlete of the Year, a deserving honour for the 5,000m and 10,000m gold medallist at last year’s Daegu World Athletics Championships.

Cheruiyot, an inimitable talent with an exceptional track and cross country showing this season, was not present at the Hotel de Golfe venue to receive the award, but the reassuring words that she was at training camp in Kenya preparing for the Olympic Games in July must be a sincere signal that the world will have another distinctive taste of the Kenyan who began competing at 15 and today, stands out as the sure glory threat to the Ethiopian field of outstanding female runners.

UFRESA’s premier awards ceremony appropriately recognised that in Africa leadership is not only critical but also inspirational.

Mitchell Obi is an Executive Committee Member of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) and Vice - Chairman of Mastersports International.

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