Career transition: Athletes can carry part of the cross

Monday May 20 2019

Joshua Cheptegei from Uganda crosses the finish

Joshua Cheptegei from Uganda crosses the finish line to win the Men's senior race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships on March 30, 2019 in Aarhus, Denmark. Photo by AFP 

By Editor

In May 2015, we reported that former Express and Uganda Cranes captain Ibrahim Dafala was resigned to living as a pauper. Dafala like many before and after him, here and in the diaspora, benefitted from the acclaim that comes with being national stars.
In 1971, then president Idi Amin had entrusted Dafala with a sports shop left behind by expelled Asians. This became his only source of livelihood until Amin was overthrown. He was actually more equipped to cope with life after football. As a son of a former King’s African Rifles soldier, he had earlier benefited from a scholarship (1956 to 1960) to study at Mombasa Institute of Muslim Education specialising in electrical engineering.
The colonial government offered him a job at Uganda Broadcasting Service, now UBC, as a sound engineer. He even worked for BBC. His story is akin to Olympian Franco Wanyama’s. Or the ‘inappropriately’ nicknamed Kassim ‘The Dream’ Ouma, whose vision turned into a musing.
In 2000, Wanyama reportedly finished his professional boxing career with 20 wins from 29 fights, to start a second career as a paid sparring partner. Something the UK’s Independent referred to as “boxing’s forbidden planet, an unregulated world of hurt where men get paid to suffer.”
His wife Lucy told this paper that they dropped life in Belgium for England, where promises of better training jobs never quite materialised. Wanyama died a poor. When his body laid in state in Lugogo on May 10, his friend and teammate at the 1988 Seoul Olympics Bosco Waigo, urged sports leaders to support athletes’ career transition.
It is an important discussion whose burden cannot be left to sports leaders alone. Athletes and their managers have to tread carefully during the good times. Fortunately, they have examples of those doing good by themselves. World cross-country champion Joshua Cheptegei has taken good care of his incomes to the point of setting up his own track in Kapchorwa to nurture more runners.
Dorcus Inzikuru, a former world steeplechase champion, has crawled back into life recovering from an estranged marriage and years of inactivity. It has taken her a stint in police service, a couple of academic courses in Mass Communication (Ndejje University) and Sports Management (Uganda Olympic Committee) and a new marriage.
Last weekend, a couple of ex-international footballers under the newly formed ‘Former Footballers Initiative’ also visited Dafala, 85, to offer the much needed support. That is precisely, the way to go.