Realism, flexibility, efficiency and consideration, fundamental aspects of the CAA development plan

The situation of athletics in these times of pandemic, the decisions of the last CAA Council, the African Athletics Development centers (AADC), the second development plan, the continental circuit of competitions, the African cross-country championships and the senior African championships were the highlights of the video-conference press conference on Monday, September 21, 2020, chaired by the CAA Director General, Lamine FATY and the technical Director, Aziz Daouda.

Coming back to the CAA council meeting on September 9, FATY said he was "satisfied" with this meeting after the meeting on May 16 with 15 members present and 05 absent with apologies. ‘’ The council has notably maintained the programming of our two major championships scheduled in 2020 for next year. The African cross country championship will take place at the end of February / mid-March 2021 in Lomé, Togo while the senior athletics championships will take place in Algiers in June 2021 '' added the CAA CEO, stressing that '' the precise dates will be decided later with the organizing federations''.
Mr. FATY reported on the continuation of the CAA African meetings circuit program with seven (07) stages even if those of Nigeria and South Africa are not yet confirmed. `` The CAA will ensure that this circuit takes place with its seven stages just like the meeting in Gaborone in Botswana in April 2021, '' he said, wishing for an improvement of the situation in relation to the covid-19 pandemic and a gradual resumption of regional and national championships.
`` Despite the confinement situation and inadequate preparation, we were pleasantly surprised by the performances of our athletes during the meetings in Monaco and Stockholm and we hope that they will do even better in the competitions to come ' 'said FATY.

For his part, the Technical Director of the CAA, Mr. Daouda indicated that “during this period of confinement, the confederation was very active by organizing about thirty sessions with more than 50 participants for each. He cited as example the seminar on women's athletics which brought together more than 65 women.

Mr. Daouda also returned to the CAA strategy based on development plans. '' In Abidjan during our congress, all the members declared themselves satisfied with our first ten-year plan which expired in 2017, '' he said, stressing that the CAA competitions experienced a clear progress in terms of enthusiasm and the number of participants. `` In the past we would organize championships with three or four countries, but we recorded at the last All Africa Games in Rabat the presence of 52 countries, while the numbers have also increased considerably '' noted the Technical Director who recognizes the difficulty of organizing cross-country championships because "it is a discipline that is not practiced in all African countries".

'' To encourage mass participation, CAA has introduced the U18 category for the African Cross Country Championships in Lomé where more than 300 participants of this age will be on the starting block '' he said by underlining the will of the confederation to popularize this discipline considered as "an entry to athletics".

Specifics of the field

Mr. Daouda will also say that the CAA strategy takes into account the specificities of our continent and does its best to make its vision heard for the benefit of our athletes who are the only ones to be present in competitions around the world at up to 30% and are also among the world's best results.
He detailed that the current development plan of the confederation has been split into two periods of five years each which will soon be adopted by the council, stressing that `` this plan is based on four fundamental aspects in our opinion '': realism, flexibility, efficiency and consideration.

Explaining these four key words, he will say that the CAA adapts to the reality on the ground of the national federations. The brand image of our discipline, which unfortunately does not make all of its athletes live on it except for a few great champions, is everyone's mission by the media and television. “We as a confederation must work together with world athletics to safeguard and keep all middle distance events on the program of meetings. The 5,000m and 10,000m races are "African" events and with the relays, they are more spectacular than many others.

The Technical Director noted with satisfaction the good job being done at the level of African preparation and training centers. As proof, he raised the performances of their athletes in international competitions.

Finally the CAA CEO welcomed this press conference and thanked the participants while regretting that many journalists were unable to access the platform due to technical difficulties. ‘’We will repeat this experience very soon," he concluded.

The communications officer Mr. Mohamed Zemmour took an active part in this conference with other African journalists including Mr. Oumar Ba, media manager of the CAA and Ms. Alice Annibali in charge of public relations at the World Athletics communication department. Mr. Zemmour assured that "the preparations for the African Championships in 2021 in Algiers are going well, especially with the renovation of the annex stadium which will be furnished with a new track".

Mohamed Zemmour (FAA) for the CAA.

TANZANIE: Mbaraka James in the footsteps of Filbert Bayi

Lining up against one of the country’s most versatile runners didn’t deter the unheralded Mbaraka James on his way to winning the men’s 1500m at the Tanzanian Championships, which drew to a close on Sunday (13) after two days of action at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

Jointly organised by National Sports Council (NSC), the Tanzanian Olympic Committee (TOC) and Athletics Tanzania (AT), the Tanzanian Championships took place for the first time in five years and brought together more than 200 athletes from 28 regions of the country.

James, representing the Tanga Region, won the 1500m in 3:47.12, beating Gabriel Geay – who has represented Tanzania at global and area championships – and Epimak Boniface. He started some distance behind Geay and Boniface, but gradually made up the distance on the pair. On the final lap, he overtook the duo to emerge the winner.

“It’s a National Championships, so I expected it to be a tough race,” said the 19-year-old. “My coach told me to train hard and follow his instructions, so I did exactly that and won. In Tanga, few people are involved in athletics, but with my achievement at this National Championships, many youngsters will follow into my footsteps.”

Former world record-holder Filbert Bayi, whose best of 3:32.2 still stands as the national record, is one of James’ idols.

“I can see myself becoming a top athlete,” he said. “My performance here has motivated me to work extra hard and reach the levels of my idol, Filbert Bayi.”

Angelina Tsele and Grace Charles, winners of the women’s 5000m and 1500m respectively, appreciated the opportunity to compete at a national championships. “Racing on this track against top athletes from other regions was not that easy, but I am happy that I have performed well,” said Tsele.

“Thanks to the full involvement of the TOC, the championships were very competitive,” added Charles. “I’m looking forward to representing the country at future international events.”

Athletics Tanzania’s acting secretary general Ombeni Zavalla and Vice PresidentKallaghe hailed the support from the government and promised that next year they will come back even stronger.

“After a five-year absence, this year we are back,” said Zavalla. “We really appreciate the support we received from the government and TOC to successfully host this event. I promise that next year we will host a championship even more successful than this year.”

The two-day event was officially opened by Ally Possi, deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Information, Arts, Culture and Sports.

“We will continue working with Athletics Tanzania and all stakeholders to help develop the sport,” he said. “We are committed to developing this sector as we know that, if well managed, it can be a source of income to many families.”

Coast Region emerged the overall winner of the championships, earning 12 medals (five gold, six silver and one bronze).

Robert Kalyahe, Secretary General of athletics in the Coast Region, attributed the success of his team to the support they receive from stakeholders, which includes the Filbert Bayi Foundation (FBF).

“This is a great achievement to our region,” said Kalyahe, “but this has come due to the hard work of our athletes, coaches, leaders of our association and the support we get from the Filbert Bayi Foundation.”

Joseph Mchekadona for World Athletics

CAA COUNCIL MEETING: Major competitions, African Athletic Tour in 2021; 2021-2025 strategic plan were discussed

 The CAA Council meeting held yesterday by video conference was marked by decisions concerning the holding in 2021 of major competitions (African Cross Country Championship, Senior African Championships and African Athletic Tour) which were initially planned for 2020 but postponed because of the COVID 19 pandemic. Togo and Algeria will therefore host these two events. The CAA and the authorities of these two countries are in discussions to set the final dates for the competitions.

The Confederation of African Athletics has also confirmed that the 2021 edition of the Continental Circuit of one-day meetings will take place in the following countries: (Ethiopia), (Congo), (Djibouti), (Nigeria), (Kenya), (South Africa) and (Cameroon). The host cities will be communicated in the next weeks.

As a reminder, the 2020 calendar was set as follows: Pretoria (March), Addis Ababa (May 31), Djibouti (April 3), Kaduna (April), Nairobi (May 2), Brazzaville (May), Yaoundé (May 23)

The Council also discussed the African athletics development strategy through the 2021-2025 plan.

Dabo and Busby after Doha: How a random act of kindness changed the lives of two athletes

Braima Dabo thought he did the obvious when he stopped to help Jonathan Busby on the tracks a year ago in Doha.

It was the opening heat of the men’s 5000m at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019. The race had been won by Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega and every runner had crossed the line finish line except Dabo, representing Guinea-Bissau, and Jonathan Busby from Aruba.

Dabo was overtaking Busby when he observed that the Aruban was in real pain and wasn’t going to make it, so he stopped to help.

“This was someone who needed help,” says Dabo in Portuguese, “so I went to help, nothing more. It was normal.”

Except the world disagreed with Dabo; it was not an entirely ordinary thing to sacrifice one’s race to help a rival over the finish line. The pair received a standing ovation as they crossed the finish line together at the Khalifa Stadium in Doha, but that was nothing compared to what followed.

That singular act of rare sporting kindness hit headlines all over the world. The story appeared on TV, newspapers and was lauded online and on social media networks. A clip of the moment has, to date, had more than seven million views across World Athletics’ platforms.

Dabo was hailed for great sportsmanship and became the subject of media frenzy in Doha, something he did not quite understand.

“What happened in my life after that was like a nightmare,” says the 27-year-old with a big laugh. “When I saw the attention that people gave me in Doha, at first I was afraid. I did not understand why because I thought it was normal. It is only when I returned to Portugal that friends helped me understand why it was such a big deal.

“After that, I felt gratitude that people showed me love and cared about me and I felt blessed and I am very thankful to everyone.”

The Fair Play Award

In November 2019, Dabo and Busby flew to Monaco where the Bissau-Guinean received the International Fair Play Award at the World Athletics Awards.

“I was not expecting that because it was a spontaneous action, normal for me but when World Athletics gave me the award, it was like a dream and it was an award that motivated me to do all I want to do in athletics and my life.”

Many more fantastic things happened to the “small boy from Guinea-Bissau”, as Dabo describes himself.

Portuguese media were very interested in telling his story and that led to a series of surprising events, the most unexpected of which was receiving an invitation from a very high office in Portugal.

“The most important and strange thing that happened to me was when the president of Portugal invited me and gave me a distinction from what happened in Doha.

“A group here gave me a Christmas gift. They sent me to Guinea-Bissau to see my family after eight years! After that I went to Sao Tome for a talk with a motivation group and I was part of Tedx talks in Matosinhos.

“Some nice people crossed my path but life in the athletics world has not changed much. I still run with my shoes and shorts, everything is the same,” he jokes. “I was not expecting that, so it’s not so much to me personally, life has not changed so much, even if it has given me the opportunity to dream.”

Dabo has used his newfound popularity to do some good. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck Portugal, many African students were stranded with nowhere to turn to for help. Being a student himself, Dabo understood exactly what they were going through. The Bissau-Guinean had an idea.

“I thought if my name has value, why not start a help group to feed those who are all alone here,” says Dabo. “My institute and Carritas Portugal helped to collect some basic needs to help those who had no money and I am so proud about that.”

Busby after Doha

If Dabo has been living the dream since Doha, the man he helped has been living the complete opposite.

For Busby, the crippling pain he experienced that day on the track heralded a challenging period to come.

“In Doha it was a combination of dehydration plus injury,” says Busby. When he returned home, he continued to race with disappointing results.

“After Doha I participated in four races but I didn’t perform optimal. Normally I win races in the Caribbean but people started beating me, I got tired easily and the races were not like how it used to go. So I had to take a break.”

The 34-year-old long distance runner says he’s been trying to pinpoint the exact problem with little success.

“I’ve had x-rays on my hip and my back, but they saw nothing. I am still very stiff right now in my abductors.”

He received a lot of attention after Doha, but all of it wasn’t positive.

“At first I could see very positive messages from around the world. But then I saw some negative messages that affected me. I was struggling with them.”

To make things worse, Busby lost two jobs and his home, and then the coronavirus exploded in Aruba. He was later diagnosed with bipolar depression and spent more than three months in a clinic for treatment.

“I wasn’t getting allowance, no money, no job, nothing, because the situation in the country was really bad,” he says.

“So it’s not been so beautiful, no rainbows. I am just doing my best right now to keep positive. I am living at a friend’s house right now, just trying to get myself back together.”

A spotlight for athletics

The Aruba Athletics Federation and the Athletics Federation of Guinea-Bissau have benefited from the attention their athletes received.

“What he did was something very special,” says the President of the Athletics Federation of Guinea-Bissau, Renato Pappy Moura. “[It is] something that comes from him because that’s the way he really is.

“It was really good for us because people started talking more about our country and the humble people that we have, and people from our country started talking a lot more about athletics and that was really important for us.

“We are still living that dream.”

It had a positive effect in Aruba, too.

“It had ripple effects on the entire population of Aruba, not only on athletics,” says the General Secretary of the Aruba Athletics Federation, Nigel Nedd. “The ATIA (Aruba Trade Industry Association) had scheduled to bring Braima to Aruba on 18 March for an appreciation award, but this was all cancelled due to Covid-19.”

The pandemic has been catastrophic for many sectors on the island and has hit athletics particularly hard. This has limited the kind of help that the federation has been able to offer Busby during his difficulties.

“All of our athletes get professional help for their injuries, however, in Jonathan’s case he was also interned in a clinic to treat his depression,” explains Nedd. “This, of course, had a higher priority. It’s a very difficult period on the island at the moment. Many people are unemployed because Aruba is so dependent on the tourism industry which was completely shut down. It will take at least another year from this point forward before we can recover from this.”

The Bissau-Guinean federation is also experiencing difficulties.

“At the moment we are not doing much more than we should because we have some problems in the federation. We had those problems long before Braima did what he did, but what he did is not forgotten, so when the time comes we will use that to give them courage to keep going and to represent the best for our country.”

Friendship for life

Busby and Dabo have become fast friends, even with the distance and language barrier between them. Busby speaks no Portuguese and Dabo no English, so how have they managed to stay in touch?

“I downloaded a translator on my phone and when he says something I put it in there, so the language has never been a barrier,” says Busby.

“From the moment we had in Doha, Jonathan is like a brother,” says Dabo. “Jonathan told me all what was happening to him so I was worried. The Covid situation added stress to Jonathan’s life but we have talked about it and slowly things are getting better and now I am not so worried. I am happy and I hope the worst is over.

“I was really looking forward to visiting him in April when Aruba’s government sent me an invitation but with all of Covid -19 going on in the world, it was not possible to travel to Aruba. Jonathan is a very nice guy, very humble, so it’s a friendship for life.”

Busby reciprocates the growing bonds of friendship with Dabo.

“When I read the negative messages after Doha and I talked to Braima about it, he told me not to care about those things,” says Busby.

“We just talk, not every day, but we talk to each other. When I am missing, he does try to get me motivated and try to see where I am and what I am doing, why I am not posting things. He is a very kind person.”

Both of them are dreaming of competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, now planned for the summer of 2021, although they are realistic about their qualification. They both know their best hope of making it would be through invitation, since they have been unable to fully train because of the pandemic for Dabo, and injury for Busby.

But what brought them together remains ever special, especially for the Aruban.

“That moment, I will never, ever forget it,” says Busby. “When he grabbed me around my shoulders, he has been like a brother to me ever since. It’s very special what he did for me and he’s been a special friend until now. He made this thing happen in Doha and all I can say is I am very happy I met him.”

Helen Ngoh for World Athletics

Joshua Cheptegei dethrones Kenenisa Bekele

Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei set a new world record in the 5,000m, covering the distance in just 12'35''36, during the Monaco Diamond League meeting, Friday August 14, against 12'37''35 in 2004 for the Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele.

With this feat, the 23-year-old athlete, reigning 10,000m world champion, thus holds three world records since he already had those in the 5 km and 10 km on the road.

On the women's side, Kenyan Hellen Obiri, two-time world champion in the 5,000m, confirmed her supremacy over the distance with a fast lap time, as she won in 14'22''12, the best world performance of the season and 17th fastest time in history.

Kenyan Faith Kipyegon set the second fastest time in history over 1000m 2'29''15, very close to Masterkova's record (2'28''98 in 1996).

World champion Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya won the 1500m in 3'28''45.

The 3000m steeplechase event was dominated by Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali in 8'8''04 (m.p.m.).

With a time of 47''10, the Norwegian Karsten Warholm achieved the eighth performance of all time over the 400m hurdles.

How Ron Davis and Filbert Bayi made history for Tanzania

When Ron Davis started out in athletics, he probably never dreamed that he would get to travel the world doing what he loved best – much less that it would lead to him laying down roots half way across the world in Tanzania.

But following a chance meeting with some Olympic icons and a tour around Africa, the US athlete-turned-coach found his true calling when he linked up with Filbert Bayi.

Born in 1941 in New York City, Davis didn’t have the easiest start in life. When Davis was four years old, his father was imprisoned for armed robbery in New Jersey. Once released from prison, he remarried, and Davis at age 12 moved in with him.

“It was in Virginia that I experienced southern-style segregation and racism,” recalls Davis. “I learned to say, ‘Yes sir’ and ‘No sir’, to not look at a white woman, drink out of fountains or go to a bathroom where signs said ‘colored’ or ‘black’, and I could only attend an all-black school.”

Living with his mother while attending high school, Davis was a great basketball and baseball player, but the training field for the high school baseball team was too far away to attend daily practice. With no money to cover transportation, he started taking part in athletics. He excelled in long distance races and ended up with the sixth-fastest mile time in the country when he broke a 24-year-old record at the Brown Invitational.

Davis received dozens of university scholarship offers at a time when a common misperception was that black people could not run farther than 400m. He attended San Jose State University in California and became an All-American, forming a key part of the history-making 1962 NCAA Cross-Country Championships team—the first racially integrated team to win the division one (then called the university division) title.

From 1968-1969, as a student assistant coach at his alma mater, he crossed paths with Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the 1968 Olympic 200m gold and bronze medallists. The two men had been forced back home by the then United States Olympic Committee (USOC) for their human rights protest on the medal podium and were later ostracised and received death threats. But, having been inspired by their actions in Mexico City,Davisgot to know the men personally and, along with Lee Evans – another Olympic gold medallist and civil rights activist – spent a lot of time with them.

Athletics in Africa

Davis’s connection with Africa started in the early 1960s. During the height of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, Davis embarked on a goodwill tour around Africa in 1964 as part of the US team. Through competing at meetings and hosting clinics, organisers of the goodwill tour wanted to show that life in a democratic country such as the USA was better than in the Soviet Union.

The team toured Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Algeria. At one of the clinics, a student in the audience asked Davis: “Why are black athletes called ‘Americans’ during the Olympics, but before and after the Games they are called ‘negroes’ and treated as second-class citizens, facing racism and difficulty getting housing and employment?”

The question struck a chord with Davis. He took a greater interest in colonial Africa with its struggles for independence and this later led him to coaching in Nigeria, Mauritius, Tanzania, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Mozambique, and being a Fulbright lecturer in Brazzaville, Congo.

A decade later, Davis and Evans were the national athletics coaches for Nigeria. Several African countries boycotted the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal because the IOC refused to ban New Zealand after their national rugby team toured apartheid South Africa. In 1978, Nigeria decided to boycott the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton for the same reasons. Davis, directly impacted by the boycotts, was fortunate to meet Tanzania’s Minister of Culture and Sports who hired him as the national athletics coach for Tanzania in 1979.

Filbert Bayi was Tanzania’s star athlete at that time. In 1974 hemade international headlines when winning the Commonwealth 1500m title in world record time. Considered one of the greatest 1500m runs of all time, Bayi took the lead from the start and kept it until the finish line as he broke the world record with 3:32.16 in what was his fifth race within seven days. A year later, Bayi broke the world record in the mile, clocking 3:51.0 in Kingston, Jamaica.

When Davis was first hired as Tanzania’s head coach, Bayi was injured and receiving treatment in Germany.When he returned, Bayi – who was coachable, disciplined, and trained hard – willingly accepted Davis’s coaching system.

Had Tanzania not boycotted the 1976 Olympics, Bayi would have been a medal favourite in the 1500m. When the next Olympic year came around, Bayi decided to move back to the steeplechase, an event he hadn’t contested since exiting the heats of the 1972 Olympics as an U20 athlete.

The early signs during the 1980 season were promising. Bayi won the steeplechase at the DN Galan meeting in Stockholm in 8:17.98, which was the world-leading time ahead of the Olympic Games in Moscow.

Full of confidence and determined to win a medal for Tanzania, Bayi set off at world record pace in the Olympic final.He passed through 2000m in 5:20 – inside the world best for the 2000m steeplechase at that time – and at one point had a 30-metre lead over Poland’s Bronisław Malinowski, the Olympic silver medallist in 1976. With fatigue setting in, Bayi’s lead hadreduced to just five metres with one lap to go. He was inevitably caught by Malinowski but held on to finish second in a national record of 8:12.48, earning Tanzania’s first ever Olympic medal.

“Ron Davis is a hero to me because of [my] silver medal while he was coaching me,” Bayi said in a 2019 interview with “I’ll never forget that. I went through ups and downs with him and we are still friends.”

Decades later, when he was tasked with reviving athletics in his country,Bayi once again called upon his friend Davis. “He is the only person that brought Olympic medals to Tanzania.”

Further Olympic involvement

In the early 1980s when Atlanta was considering bidding for the 1996 Olympic Games, the co-chairman of the event, former UN Ambassador and Mayor of Atlanta Andrew Young, contacted Davis. The connection developed into Atlanta hosting 80 athletes from 11 countries in a pre-Olympic training camp prior to the 1984 Olympic Games. Davis was responsible for 11 teams, nine of which were from Africa.

Years later, Davis was founder and director of the LaGrange pre-Olympic training camp ‘I Train in LaGrange’. It welcomed more than 500 athletes from 45 countries – many from Africa – before the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

“There is no doubt in my mind, as I experienced lobbying for Atlanta to win the 1996 Olympic Games, that what Atlanta did in 1984 had an impact in the city winning the bid,” says Davis. Historically, LaGrange is a former cotton mill town where many African people had been slave labourers. Sadly, what could have become an Olympic legacy after the Games was stopped.

In 1992, while South Africa was in the process of reinstatement into the Olympic movement, the IAAF (now World Athletics) organised sanctioned meets in Dakar and in Johannesburg, opposing South Africa and the rest of Africa. Davis was appointed coach of the African team and arranged for the visiting athletics delegation to meet presidential candidate Nelson Mandela.

“As soon as Mandela entered the room, his spirit just took over the whole meeting,” recalls Davis. At the press conference, Mandela apologised to the athletes and Africa’s sporting officials for how the sports boycott of major international events had affected them because of the apartheid policies in South Africa. The event marked the reconciliation between South Africa, the African continent and the international sporting community.

Project 2020 and beyond

In 2018, Bayi invited Davis back to Tanzania and together they tailored the programme‘2020 and Beyond’,the primary objective of which is to scout, train, nurture and prepare talented athletes in a country whose last Olympic medal came 40 years ago.

“I will be forever grateful to Filbert Bayi for bringing me back home,” says Davis.“I have always dreamed of spending the rest of my life in Tanzania.”

Davis believes that the country has talented runners, but they rarely get discovered. And when they are, they are often “lost in transit”.Focused on the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, he has identified a few potential stars in Tanzania, including middle distance runners Regina Mpigachai and Gaudencia Maneno, sprinters Benedicto Mathias and Matiko Nyamaraga, and soon-to-be 800m specialist Amos Charles.

Funding for Bayi’s schools and foundation remains a challenge but they desperately desire an all-weather training track for the school.

Lasting legacy

Now aged 79, Davis has finally found peace in Africa and continues his work as a sports developer, both on track and off it.

Myles Schrag, a writer who is working on Davis and Bayi’s memoirs, describes Davis as “extremely giving, accomplished and passionate about people”. Throughout his sports career, he has pushed for athletes to get an education because, “with education, they can return home one day and contribute to national development in their countries”.

Davis recently helped Regina Mpigachai, one of his athletes, prepare for her TOEFL exam, because he has witnessed first-hand the importance of passing on knowledge to the younger generation.

“They (Bayi and other athletes with whom he has previously worked) have adopted my philosophy and are giving back by offering free education to the youth and potential student-athletes in their countries to get sports scholarships to universities,” says Davis.

Bayi, meanwhile, gave Davis the greatest gift an athlete can give a coach: an Olympic medal, a new home and an opportunity to pass on the passion of athletics to the next generation of Tanzanian athletes.

“What goes beyond the expected,” says Davis,“is what we do for others without asking anything in return.”

Alice Annibali for World Athletics

CAA President Kalkaba Malboum: « We’re working to ensure that athletics in Africa can survive similar disasters in future »

While half of the world is starting to ease their way out of lockdown, most countries in Africa are still awaiting the green light from their governments to resume normal day-to-day activities. For thousands of athletes on the continent, that means being able to return to training facilities and competitions.

Hamad Kalkaba Malboum, president of the African Athletics Confederation (CAA), says the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the sport in Africa.

“During this pandemic, like the rest of the world, all activities were stopped under country restrictions,” he says. “The only exception was Togo, where our AADC (African Area Development Centres) athletes have been able to keep on training as they were all living inside the centre at the Kégué National Stadium.

“In some countries, such as Mauritius, athletes were able to resume training on 1 July. There are several expatriate athletes across our various training centres, but they’ve been able to go back home before returning in September to resume training when the athletics season restarts.

“In other countries, most athletes have been able to train at home, and some with their personal coach. But our main advice to all member federations was to respect the decisions of their governments to protect their health.”

In practical terms, it has meant that the large groups of elite endurance athletes in Kenya and Ethiopia, for example, have been unable to operate as normal. Instead of training as a big squad, most have had to find ways of working in much smaller groups. That’s just the elite end of the sport, too; similar challenges filter right down to the grassroots level.

And it’s not just training arrangements that have been affected. As has been the case in many other countries around the world, competitions have been cancelled and earning opportunities for athletes have been significantly reduced.

The CAA has had to postpone two continental championships and they’re still working with World Athletics and Athletics Kenya to find new dates for the World U20 Championships in Nairobi.

“We spoke to the regional presidents to find out what was happening in each area, and they informed us that all competitions have unfortunately been suspended,” said Kalkaba Malboum. “In consultation and in agreement with the host countries, we have also rescheduled our major competitions. We had two continental championships planned for 2020: the African Cross Country Championships in Lome, Togo, and the African Championships in Algiers. We’re now looking to host the African Cross Country Championships in March 2021 and the African Championships in June 2021, so that performances can count towards Olympic qualifying. But it all depends on whether the situation improves.”

The Kip Keino Classic, a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting, is set to take place in Nairobi on 26 September, and for many of the athletes involved it may be their only competition of 2020. But after a challenging start to the year, it will also offer a glimmer of hope for the African athletes who have one eye on qualifying for the Olympic Games next year.

“In 2021 the main focus for our top athletes will be on preparing and qualifying for the Olympics, although at this moment the calendar for next year is looking quite poor,” says Kalkaba Malboum. “In recent weeks we’ve seen athletes in Europe return to competitions and training facilities, so hopefully it won’t be long before governments in Africa make similar decisions that will allow our athletes to do the same.”

Futureproofing the sport

With livelihoods severely affected by the pandemic, the CAA has set about trying to secure additional funding for Africa’s top athletes.

“For our top athletes, it has been very difficult for them to make a living,” he says. “Several athletes thankfully benefitted from the fund set up by World Athletics. The CAA is also working to implement a permanent sport support fund in the event that we face a pandemic again in the future, so we have made a proposal to the African Union and ANOAA (Association of National Olympic Academies of Africa) to ensure that our sport is not jeopardised if such disasters occur again.”

As has been the case with other area associations, the CAA has adapted their way of working in recent months, and the increased use of technology has featured heavily.

“Our latest Council Meeting was held as a video conference, with the support of World Athletics, and this initiative has been very much appreciated,” says Kalkaba Malboum. “In addition, webinars and online courses have been organised at various national training centres, including Nairobi, Dakar and Cairo. Some courses, however, require face-to-face training, but we hope to implement these by end of the year.

“Journalists from francophone Africa initiated a forum to which leaders, coaches and athletes were invited, including sprinter Marie Josee Ta Lou, triple jumper Hugues Fabrice Zango, heptathlete Odile Ahouanwanou and Ivorian coach Anthony Koffi. They shared opinions about the status of our sport during this pandemic and exchanged ideas.”

It may be a while until Africa – and, indeed, the rest of the world – has fully recovered from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, but Kalkaba Malboum is determined to implement measures to ensure athletics in the continent is prepared for any eventualities.

“During this pandemic we’ve learned that we need to put in place a strategy in case we face another similar situation in future,” he says. “Such a strategy should include advice from scientists about how athletes can continue to train in the event of lockdown. We also need to find means of guaranteeing and maintaining commitments with sponsors and host countries in case of a force majeure.”

Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics

Covid 19: CAA Launches Online Training for AADC

The African Athletics Confederation (CAA) has announced new changes to the program of activities of the African Athletics Development Centers (AADC) challenged by the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath. Thus, the training component will be provided online by the experts, starting in July.

AADC Dakar has programmed six (6) activities intended for coaches for the preparation of the Youth Olympic Games (experts Dramane Coulibaly and Anthony Koffi), the fight against doping (Dr Mohamed Diop), the lives of female athletes in Covid 19 period (Fatima El Faquir), management of French and Portuguese speaking federations (Jee Isram and Sharifa) and CECS 2 SAUTS (Ralph Mouchbahini).

AADC Cairo has planned nine (9) seminars around the planning of the Tokyo Games for Jumping, CECS 1 and CECS 2 (Ralph Mouchbahini), CECS 2 (Dr Wolfgang Ritzdorf and Gunter Lange), Psychological Effects of Covid 19 (Pr Wael Refaee), Management of competitions during Covid 19 (Hamou Tijani), Physiotherapists women (Lutz Meissner), Training camp for young jumpers), and Road races.

AADC Nairobi has six (6) programs for secretaries general of federations, TOECS 2 (Chris Cohen and Gungaram), Heptathlon training camp (Maria Whopil and Beatrice Ayikoru), fight against doping (Stephane Bermon ) etc…

The training centers of Mauritius, Port Harcourt, Lomé, Lusaka and Dakar operate according to local realities.

Athletes now able to register for support from welfare fund

Professional athletes who are experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic will be able to register for a one-off welfare grant from today until May 31.

Two weeks ago World Athletics and the International Athletics Foundation (IAF) announced that a US$ 500,000 welfare fund had been created to support professional athletes who have lost a substantial part of their income due to the suspension of international competition this year.

A working group was formed to oversee the distribution of the funds and it has now finalised the eligibility criteria and application process.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe, who chairs the working group, said it had been a challenging and complicated task to define the eligibility criteria to ensure that grants from the fund were delivered to the athletes most in need.

“The IAF has allocated a substantial sum to the fund, and we hope to raise more through private donations from friends of our sport, but it has become apparent that the resources must be focused on athletes who are likely to be competing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year and are now struggling to pay for basic necessities due to loss of income during the pandemic,’’ Coe said.

“We know this is a stressful situation for many athletes and we are trying to provide meaningful assistance to as many as possible as quickly as possible so they can continue to train for the competition season we have now scheduled for August to October, and for next year’s Olympics.’’

World 1500m record-holder and Olympic champion Hicham El Guerrouj, who initiated this project and sits on the working group, said the loss of competition had had a huge impact on professional athletes because many relied on prize money to support themselves and their families.

The Fund will support athletes who have met the Tokyo Olympic Games entry standard and will provide welfare grants to be used to cover basic living expenses. The level of grant will be dependent on the number of approved applications and up to a maximum of US$4000. It is anticipated that the grants will be distributed directly to athletes from June.

Only athletes who have been impacted financially to the extent that they are unable to maintain their basic standard of living should apply. All applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

Must be qualified (by meeting the entry standard) for selection for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Must have never had an anti-doping rule violation

Must be able to demonstrate a justifiable welfare need through significant loss of income in 2020 compared to 2019.

To help ensure the fund goes to those most in need, please note the following athletes will not be eligible to apply:

Those ranked in the Top 6 in their event in the World Athletics World Rankings

Those who have finished in the Top 6 positions of any Gold Label Road Race in 2019

Those who have earned more than USD 6,000 in prize money from the Diamond League in 2019

Athletes who, throughout the covid-19 pandemic, continue to receive an annual grant from their Government, National Olympic Committee, Member Federation or sponsors are not expected to apply unless they can demonstrate a justifiable welfare need as detailed above.

Athletes can register for consideration here.

To ask questions regarding eligibility, or to make a case for exceptional circumstances (such as injury in 2019 impacting on eligibility), athletes should contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The first phase of the application process is for the IAF to assess eligibility and for athletes to describe the need for grant support and their proposed use of the grant. More detailed financial information will be requested in the second phase prior to confirmation of any grant award.  

World Athletics