About the author: Bhawna Atmaram has a keen interest in the social and political life in Mauritius and is inspired about what her country has to offer and can achieve.
Being a sportsperson in Mauritius
Being a high-calibre sports person demands lots of sacrifices: personal, physical, mental, financial and many more. The world of sports is a cut-throat domain, where only the best can aspire to international platforms. However, since their optimum physical fitness levels do not last for ever, many high-performing sportspersons prepare for their ‘retirement’ by saving their cash rewards or funds generated from advertising deals. This stands mostly true for international athletes but not does not really apply to Mauritius. In fact, despite the numerous pledges to uplift the sphere of sports, sportspeople are woefully underpaid and undervalued.
The case of Arnaud Casquette has been a stark wake-up call for numerous Mauritians. Why has such a prolific athlete resorted to criminal activities? Why would he risk his reputation for peanuts? What he has done should of course not be condoned but the harsh truth is that there is hardly any adequate provision for these athletes in Mauritius. Most of them earn a mere pittance. Many so-called chairpersons of sporting associations are merely selfish lots who care only for their equally petty selfish ambitions, leaving athletes reaping the shambolic consequences of their unethical practices.
Unfortunately, the Ministry of Sports remains hostage of these greedy louts, who care little for athletes’ well-being. Ridiculously, many athletes cannot aspire to excellence as the little they earn means they are forced to depend on other jobs to support themselves and their families. For instance, upon analysing our national squad, we find that our footballers have no choice but to relegate football as a kind of ‘hobby.’ Their day-jobs are as varied as builders, police officers or other physically demanding jobs.
How can we expect them to perform to the best of their abilities when they are already exhausted, finding ways and means to cater for their personal lives? The Mauritian reality is far from the likes of the English Premier League, where the footballers are revered superstars who are given all the support required. Here, if an athlete tragically receives a permanent life-changing injury, he/she is thrown to the gutters. Hardly encouraging indeed!
Let us hope that there is a change in the perception and treatment of these sportspeople who selflessly keep training and practising to bring fame and glory to our island. We all claim to be proud when they win trophies on the national or international forum. However, actions should speak louder than words. Our athletes should be getting the respect they rightfully deserve. We have no moral right to simply discard them to the sewers once they have served their purpose. Instead of spending uselessly on building even more cities or per diems of our august rulers, why not invest more on things that really matter?