Life skills, discipline are key for athletes
Moorosi Tsiane/ Mikia Kalati
LAST Saturday, the sporting fraternity woke up to the sad and very disturbing news that Olympian boxer, Inkululeko Suntele had passed from stab wounds.
Affectionately known as ‘Matsipane’, Suntele was stabbed in a brawl that took place in Maseru last Friday evening and he died on the way to Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital.
The incident occurred at a time when the 23-year old was convalescing from an earlier stabbing incident, allegedly by the same culprit.
Suntele was the first local boxer to win gold at the 2012 Zambia Supreme Council for Sport in Africa (SCSA) Games.
His death reminded me of few incidents in neighbouring country South Africa where footballers such as former Kaizer Chiefs star, Jeffry Ntuka, lost their lives after being stabbed.
The defender was notoriously ill-disciplined and while it was sad, it was not a surprise when he fell victim to violence.
Here at home there was an incident a few years ago where former Bantu player Sepiriti Malefane, who now plays for LCS, stabbed Likhopo midfielder, Nyeoe Rakhoboso.
Fortunately the wound was not that severe and Rakhoboso survived.
As for Suntele, his star had been on the rise over the last two years so much that he was chosen as the flag bearer for Team Lesotho at the closing ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.
He represented the country at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil after securing qualification with an impressive performance at a highly competitive continental qualifying tournament where only the best from Africa booked their tickets to Brazil.
The sudden death of this young athlete with so much potential is not only devastating to the boxing fraternity but it is a great loss to the country at large.
We have no intention to delve deeper into the details of Suntele’s stabbing and subsequent death. Suffice to say that this is another life tragically cut short and it serves to demonstrate that sports administrators have so much to do to influence the lives and shape the careers of athletes under their wings.
We have said it before in this column and we will repeat our plea to our sports administrators to stop their self-serving petty fights and focus sports development.
So much needs to be done for our country to get to the level of our counterparts on the continent and beyond. We need to work hard in order to do well at continental and global events such as the Commonwealth and Olympic games.
One of those things that we think the sports associations should implement as a matter of urgency is a life skills programme that will empower our athletes to deal with the fame and even wealth that comes with being a sports star.
This will equip them with comping techniques, showing them how to live and behave within society.
It is not the first time that Suntele was stabbed and this goes to show that our sports stars do not have it easy and often have serious life challenges to deal with.
We all know the stories of the likes of George Best, Diego Maradona, Jabu Pule, Gift Leremi, Dennis Rodman and Paul Gascoigne whose otherwise brilliant careers were marred by wayward lifestyles of womanising, partying, booze and substance abuse.
Here at home we have had a lot of talented athletes who unfortunately failed to live up to expectations due to the pressures that come with being sport stars.
We are not saying that Suntele was a bad boy but growing up in a rough and tough neighborhood like Sea Point was always going to make it difficult for him to survive the challenges that come with fame.
This has always been the case with athletes from townships like Qoaling, Sea Point, Tšenola and Mazenod.
They have been subjected to pressures and temptations in the form of alcoholism, substance abuse and lots of parting.
This puts in danger of fights where the risk of being stabbed is always high.
That is where the issue of life skills programmes come in.
But having said that, athletes also have a responsibility to take better care of themselves.
It is important for them to be highly discriminating in terms of where and who they spend time with, bring into their confidence and how they respond to life issues including provocations thrown their way.
While it may not provide hundred percent guarantees, the athletes should avoid public bars and other places where brawls and violence are more likely to erupt.
It is also important that athletes are discriminating as to where they spend their leisure time to ensure they can have fun without being harmed.
We are all saddened to lose a talented boxer.
He has been taken away from us when we expected a lot from him.
Our sincere condolences go out to his family and we hope they will find solace from what Suntele achieved.
May his soul rest in peace!