HARARE – A big congratulations to our wonderful tennis ambassador, Cara Black, for winning the Zimbabwe Sportsperson of the Year accolade at the Annual National Sports Awards (Ansa) on Wednesday night following a fruitful year on tour.
Black’s crowning moment sparked some debate in the Zimbabwe’s sporting fraternity, with some observers being of the opinion that karateka Samson Muripo should have been recognised ahead of the veteran tennis queen, due to his exploits in various international tournaments during the year.
It’s quite heartening to know that Zimbabwean sports lovers can engage in such discussions, debating excellence.
That can only be good for sports in this country.
The merits and demerits of Cara’s crowning moment aside, some of the debate surrounding the Ansa has clearly exposed the need for a complete overhaul of the selection criterion for these awards.
Currently, only teams and athletes who have represented the country at international level, or those who participate under the Zimbabwean flag be it in individual or team capacity, are eligible for selection.
In hindsight, this benchmark was a well-meaning in view of the fact that real sporting success and excellence can only be measured by how well athletes do against competition from other countries at the international stage.
But sport has evolved over the years, and some of the finest athletes in the world do not necessarily play under the flags of their countries.
Some, no matter how good they may be, may not necessarily enjoy success with their national teams for various reasons.
Take for instance Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs, who hails from a country where football is not a major sport, and the national side is regarded a minnow on the global stage.
It will be a big shame for Wales not to recognise Giggs at their national sporting awards because his success has been achieved with a foreign club, rather than the Welsh national football side.
Thankfully, the Welsh criterion is different and modernised, and indeed Giggs was honoured in 1996 and 1999 at his country’s national awards.
Back home, the Ansa awards, as Zimbabwe’s premier sports awards, must recognise every Zimbabwean sportsman or woman who achieves excellence on the sporting field wherever they play, because wherever they are, at whatever level, the name of the country is connected to them.
It might be in the colours of a club, local or foreign, the success of our athletes on the sporting arena makes Zimbabwean hearts swell with pride.