Athletes in Senegal objected to President Macky Sall’s decision to grant the soccer players the agreed bonuses, despite the failure to achieve the goal set for them in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The African champions entered the global competition on a mission to reach the quarter-finals, but they were knocked out in the second round, after being defeated 3-0 by England.
President Sall announced, two days after the national team’s elimination from the World Cup, that his government would pay “full allowances to all members of the official delegation”.
The value of the bonuses, which is part of the 23 million dollars allocated by the government to participate in the finals, varies according to the performance and task of each individual, including 26 players.
The president’s decision aims to motivate the national team in its career, but a number of old Senegalese players and athletes criticized the move.
Former national team striker Diomance Camara said in the local newspaper, Stade: If you win, you deserve the reward, but if you lose, you should learn the lesson.
Despite the generosity of the decision, the athletes, in other disciplines, did not approve of it, because they usually struggle to obtain the money they need just to participate in international competitions.
Low bonuses, long wait
Hamadil Ndiaye, Senegal’s champion in the triathlon to participate in international gatherings, is seeking to qualify for the Olympic Games. Despite his work as a photographer in London, he finds it difficult to afford air travel to be able to attend competitions.
He admits he was offended when he learned that fans would be able to attend the Teranga Lions matches in Qatar for free.
“First of all, I was upset when I learned of the respectable amount the government has set aside to bring fans to Qatar,” says the 26-year-old former swimmer.
“In 2019 and 2021, I loved participating in one of the races, but the plane ticket to Dakar amounted to $ 850, and I had to pay an additional $ 120 to transport my bike and other luggage, but I did not have enough money.”
“Sometimes we have to wait until the last minute to know if we are going to participate or not.”
The competitor, Sangun Kanji, who specializes in the triple jump, agrees with Ndiaye, and says that these stories happen frequently, which prevents athletes from “acclimating” to the places of competition, and this is reflected in the results.
“This year in the Islamic Solidarity Games, we arrived late to Konya, as one of the athletes arrived one day before the race. We have to deal with these problems, so that the athletes can take a break from traveling.
After Kanji won the triple jump competition at the African Championships in Mauritius, she received a “small” amount as a reward, as she put it.
The Olympic fencer, Ndiyi Binta Ndiong, works for a living. It was not until last year that she received bonuses for the results she achieved more than 10 years ago, in 2008.
“This year I won the bronze medal in the African Championship, but I have not received any bonuses from it, until now.”
“Money for football is frowned upon, although I understand that it brings sponsorship and excitement to the whole country.”
In fencing in a continental competition, the Senegalese gold medalist, Ndiong says, gets a bonus of $650, which is a tiny amount compared to what a soccer player receives.
“Ministry of Football”
Regardless of the difference in bonuses, competitors in other sports complain that attention is focused on football and not other sports.
“Football is the favorite sport, and everyone knows that. All African federations suffer from this,” Ndeong says.
Ndayye agrees, adding: “It’s unfair.”
And last December, the opposition, Guy Marius Sagna, supported the position of many athletes when the Minister of Sports presented the budget of his ministry to Parliament.
He asked, “Is this the Ministry of Sports or the Ministry of Football?”
“Sports such as karate and taekwondo brought us international medals. As for football, it did not bring any international medals, but the way of caring for football is not comparable to the way of caring for karate or taekwondo.”
“If I’m not mistaken, the budget for athletics in Senegal is $50,000. As for the Teranga Lions, one match they play costs from $485,000 to $810,000.”
Sports Minister Yaacoub Diatara replied, “There is no sport that we do not support.”
He added, “The solution, in my opinion, is to hold a meeting every year between the Olympic Committee, the government, and the various federations to decide on the issue.”
“The sports we think are eligible to bring in medals get the money, and the other sports have to wait.”
Installations by athletes
In front of the scarcity of financial resources, Ndyong continues her personal training program, and works as a trainer for children in the French town of Anyers-Sorsen.
“The coach agreed to train me for free, because he knows I can’t afford to pay 2,000 to 4,000 euros a year,” she says. “Before the 2020 Olympics, I was working in three places, so I was exhausted and almost quit.”
“Fortunately, I found support from my family, friends and coaches, and I also received financial aid, from which I collected 3,000 euros.”
And when she finally got her bonuses to participate in the Olympic Games, she went all out to pay off her debts.
Senegal is preparing to organize the Youth Olympics, the first sporting event of its kind in Africa, and the government is working for this on completing sports facilities and renovating others in the capital, Dakar, and its environs.
In the recent Tokyo Games, Senegal participated, represented by nine athletes, but the only medal in the country’s history was a silver, which was won by the 400-meter steeplechase runner, Ahmed Dia Ba, in the 1988 Seoul Games.
Some view these large investments in facilities with indignation because, in their opinion, they were not exploited and the athletes did not benefit from them.
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