'The guys will never be able to recover for 2020': Ramaala on the financial blow dealt to SA runners
South African road runners have been dealt a crippling financial blow by the coronavirus pandemic and four-time Olympian Hendrick Ramaala fears that most of them may not be able to recover from the devastating loss of income for years to come.
Ramaalas's concern stems from the fact that most runners derive their income from tournament prize monies‚ unlike cricketers‚ footballers and rugby players who are contracted to the federations.
With events cancelled or postponed as the Covid-19 disease continues to have a calamitous effect across the globe‚ athletes at Entsika Athletics Club in Johannesburg‚ where Ramaala is one of the head coaches‚ are spending sleepless nights over where their next prize monies will come from.
The club looks after them well in terms of training allowances, stipends and training camps while coaches are also paid.
“The majority that I coach stay in the townships in Alexandra‚ in Diepsloot‚ in Tembisa‚ in Hillbrow and so on. It’s very difficult for them‚” Ramaala‚ who represented South Africa on seven glorious occasions at the IAAF world championships‚ said.
“Financially it is a big loss‚” he said with a heavy sigh.
“I think the guys will never be able to recover for 2020. This year is gone for them.
“It is going to be between starvation and or just giving up the longer this lockdown and coronavirus goes on‚” Ramaala‚ the two-times world half marathon silver medallist‚ said.
“Imagine the financial resources that we have contributed by being in camp since October last year to prepare for these races.
"All the hotels and flight tickets we are not getting refunds‚ they give you vouchers. We are financially strained already.
“We have worked so hard since last year October getting the guys to peak for March and April because these are the months where it is peak season for athletics.”
The sports‚ arts and culture ministry this week made available a R150m relief fund to help athletes‚ musicians and artists cope. Almost 4‚000 applications have been made.
While Ramaala applauded government for its intervention‚ he fears the relief package may not cater for every athlete.
“I don’t know if will cover the whole ground because there is a big demand. I hear it will cover not only the athletes but it will cater also for musicians and artists.
“Some athletes are lucky that they get stipends and training allowances‚ but those are elite athletes. The smaller or lesser known runners are in for a rough ride.
“The competitions are gone.
"Most of the guys are living hand to mouth by winning prize monies.
"Their way of living is through winning prize monies. The longer the lockdown the more we are going to suffer financial losses.”
Ntsindiso Mphakathi‚ who lives in Soweto and also has no sponsor‚ trains under Ramaala at the Zoo Lake in Johannesburg and is also hopeful that the sports ministry relief fund will come in handy.
“The way we see it‚ it is not going to be much. But I think half a loaf of bread is better than nothing. It is difficult if you are someone who has responsibilities back at home‚” said the Port St John-born runner in the Eastern Cape.
With the lockdown confining athletes and everybody to their homes‚ Ramaala has also found ways to keep the spirits up with his team.
“Since everybody has to stay at home because of the lockdown‚ the only coaching you do is through video calls and WhastApp communication.
“I can’t meet the guys anymore. Some have left the province and gone back home.”