Modesty, Fame, and Rethinking Diversification of African Sports
May 26, 2008

A few month’s back, a BBC reporter observed the humbleness in an African athlete’s responses to an interview by the reporter after the athlete won his race. The reporter wrote that how the response was delivered was in a typical African modesty.

As the cultures of various peoples around the world have flourished over the ages, they arguably have developed some commonalities and differences. It can also be argued that a specific culture may not necessarily be better or worse than any other culture. However, it is important to cultivate and develop these cultures.

In general, it seems that Africa is still recovering from the historical social conditions much of it went through in the last few centuries. It may have yet to sort out between its locally developed cultures and outlooks from what was imported from outside in order to properly cultivate and develop the values from either source for its benefits.

While the differences may not be quite distinct because of the commonality in human nature, there are subtle observations of differences. The choice of modesty over fame, instead of the other way round, and people over the land resource where the people reside are examples of such subtle differences. Obviously, the values of such choices can not be easily calculated or simplistically weighed but cultivating what has an organic foundation may well be an easier job to do may well be more fruitful in the long run.

Last month, Africa’s top athletes were inducted in a new African athletics Hall of Fame, on the eve of Africa’s 16th Athletics Championships that was held in Finfinne (Addis Ababa). This week, Ethiopia gave special awards to 20 of its top athletes of the last nearly half a century as well as to 6 individuals who made outstanding contributions to Ethiopian sports. The first group includes 1) Abebe Bikila, 2) Mammo Wolde, 3) Miruts Yifter, 4) Mohammed Kedir, 5) Eshetu Tura, 6) Derartu Tulu, 7) Addis Abebe, 8) Fita Bayisa, 9) Haile Gebreselassie, 10) Fatuma Roba, 11) Gete Wami, 12) Million Wolde, 13) Gezahegn Abera, 14) Tesfaye Tola, 15) Asefa Mezgebu, 16) Kenenisa Bekele, 17) Sileshi Sihine, 18) Egigayehu Dibaba, 19) Meseret Defar, and 20) Tirunesh Dibaba. The second group includes 1) Sheikh Mohammed H. Al-Amoudi, 2) Yidnekachew Tessema, 3) Fikru Kidane, 4) Dr. Ayalew Tilahun, 5) Dr. Woldemeskel Kostre, and 6) Demisse Damte.

Even though Africa’s as well as Ethiopia’s recognition of their athletes are late in coming, these initiatives for special recognitions of their top athletes is a step in the right direction.

As these steps are taken, it is perhaps as important to link the type and characteristics of such recognitions with the concepts of recognition that are in the consciousness of the African society so that such recognitions can be built on the social consciousness that is on the ground. The term Hall of Fame does not seem to be quite in tune with African modesty, and hence social consciousness. Hall of Fame appears to have a sentiment of exclusion instead of inclusion. An African honor may be more of recognition within the mass than creating an exclusive club, as implied in the name Hall of Fame.

Another important consideration Africa and African countries should make, based on African societies consciousness, is to bring more of its own sports activities based on the experiences and fertile imaginations of Africans. So far, Africans’ presence in the sports world is mostly in the athletics field. This field of sports is important and challenging. Yet, it is also important for African countries and individuals to motivate and be motivated to bring to the table more of Africa’s unexplored sports activities as well as diversify the participation in the fields of activities that are already played at the various international sports events. If we can’t bring snow to Africa to make our presence felt at the Winter Olympics, there should be no reason why the flexibility of the bodies of African boys and girls can’t be felt better in the gymnastics or swimming competitions.

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