PRO ATHLETICS IN KUWAIT: GREAT STRIDES, BUT STILL A PART- TIME JOB

OTHMAN ALOTHMAN WRITES- Nike-sponsored Kuwaiti athlete Yaqoub Alyouha brought back a gold medal in the World Athletics Indoor Championships on February 4, 2020 in Dusseldorf, Germany. His time,  7.54s in the 60m hurdle, makes him the second- fastest Asian ever to run it. This came as a shock to the world, as Kuwaiti athletes are finally, literally, making great strides. 

Now, the question rocking the Arab world is: Can Kuwait continue to produce sports talents? 

The biggest sport in Kuwait is soccer, and there are many great Kuwaiti soccer players; but the country is now ranked 147th in the world. So people don’t think of the country as a breeding ground for world class athletes. Nor does the Kuwaiti government see sports as an important pillar in its plans and policies. As a result, Kuwaiti athletes look for support outside of their country, or come to see their sport as a hobby and set other work goals or pursue  academic scholarships. Plus, the budget for sports is quite limited and athletes are not paid much, forcing them to be employed in jobs such as law enforcement, which has flexible hours. No wonder they lose their incentive to work hard to compete against athletes who have been sponsored by multi-million dollar companies. 

Yaqoub Alyouha is not alone in seeking a big-time sponsor like Nike. Many others have lost their trust in the Kuwaiti government and have been forced to do the same. 

Does Kuwait lack athletic talent? No. Do authorities  lack appreciation for that talent? Yes. If the answer to that second question could justifiably become “no,” who knows what great sports successes might come from Kuwait?

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