GABA elections should be all about empowerment of the boxers
By Michael Benjamin
As local amateur boxers prepare to cast their ballots that decides their leader for the next four years it is imperative that they give careful thought to their imminent needs and the repercussions or benefits of their choice. They will need to think carefully as to whether their decision would have been minimized or augmented their chances of moving forward.
The elections are perhaps the most important because, despite the many boasts of incumbent Affeeze Khan to the contrary, all is not well with the administration of boxing.
Up until recently, before Parliamentary Secretary, Steve Ninvalle accepted a nomination to contest the position, it seemed as though the incumbent, Affeeze Khan would have been reinstated unopposed. The boxers had apparently resigned themselves to their fate knowing that someone had to do the job, regardless. Ninvalle’s decision has now opened the door for an interesting contest and both he and Khan will now be required to work feverishly while laying their cards on the table.
One would have thought that by now both parties would have been utilizing the media to put such aims and objectives in the public domain. Khan has had an opportunity to deal with this all important issue but opted to utilize valuable space in the media to lash out at his detractors.
Ninvalle has been silent up until recently when Odinga Lumumba called a press conference to endorse his (Ninvalle’s) suitability for the post. In all fairness to Ninvalle he did mention his intention to have the Cuban exchange programmes resuscitated. This is a crucial move that can very well see the standard of local boxing rising appreciably. Ninvalle, obviously subscribes to the belief that the return of the Cubans will lay a strong foundation for the boxers’ eventual rise to international fame.
In an effort to inculcate a rich vein of debate in enabling the boxers to make an informed choice, this writer beseeched Affeeze to ignore the past rhetoric and commence a healthy public discussion on his plans and projections if he is reinstated. He bluntly rejected the offer.
In the meantime I have been reliably informed that Khan has resorted to unorthodox tactics, browbeating the boxers in order to procure their votes.
To my mind there is still enough time to address this all important issue.
I would suggest that both Ninvalle and Khan appear on a public news medium to debate their projections for amateur boxers. The moderator should be one versed in the intricacies of the sport and one that finds common approval of both parties.
The boxers should form a part of the studio audience and they should come equipped with the type of hard questions that would determine whether either nominee gets their votes. For too long our boxers have been taken for granted.
Even as they prepare to cast their votes the boxers will do well to bear in mind that they now have the power to decide the direction they wish to go and agitate stringently for those things that will serve their best interests.There have been fractured relations between Khan and several executives. Obviously, these differences have robbed GABA of talent that could have been utilized for the betterment of the boxing fraternity.
There is now segregation of the coaches when what is needed instead is closer collaborations for the benefit of the boxers.
If what I have been told recently where a few dissenting coaches are being targeted for victimization and witch hunt, then the fraternity should ensure that the nominee spouting such vengeance be ignored with a passion. Only yesterday afternoon one of the coaches informed me of a statement made by Khan that certainly does not auger well for fruitful relations with those whom he regards as his detractors.
Notwithstanding that, it would border on redundancy to once again regurgitate Khan’s achievements over the past four years of his tenure.
There has been a frenzy of activity to resuscitate the many boxing gyms of the past as well build new ones. A case in point is the Essequibo Boxing Gym that produced quite a few stalwarts the likes of Clifford Vaughn, Colin Moore, Clayton Adams and many more worth their salt.
Khan went into every nook and cranny ensuring that boxing was within the reach of the ghetto folks. We remember his efforts in Sophia and Mocha Arcadia among others. Yes, there has been a series of local tournaments and a few successes in the international arena. Clive Atwell’s bronze medal at the PanAm Games in Brazil and Clevon Rock’s silver medal at the Junior Commonwealth Games in Pune, India are probably the two most notable achievements under Khan’s watch.
On the flipside of the coin, the team that traveled to USA to participate in the World Amateur Boxing Games, which also served as the Olympic trials, came back empty handed and for the first time in years Guyanese boxers were denied an opportunity to showcase their talent at the highest boxing forum.
Even as one places the blame for the poor performances at the Olympic trials at Khan’s feet, it must be noted that he has been working with meager resources and had employed his vast influence to procure sponsorship to address the many engagements—local and overseas—of the boxers.
We also happen to know of Khans’ input in the acquisition of American visas to facilitate the stop-over leg of the trip to Pune India for the junior amateur world games. To their credit, none of the boxers breeched the terms of their visa.
Affeeze Khan has always boasted of his contacts to procure sponsorship as well as to seek representation for the boxers even at the level of the US Embassy. While all this is commendable the stark reality is that Affeeze, by dint of his efforts, believes that he is a saviour to the boxers. He has adopted a domineering disposition that borders on being dictatorial.
The Campbells, Cuffies and Pattersons that have been ejected from executive power were integral to the development of the sport. Why were they ejected? It is obvious that anyone opposing Khan’s modus operandi were eventually ostracized.
Obviously with the inadequate resources available, boxing will suffer the harshest blow. It is dangerous for Affeeze to believe that he is the be it all of amateur boxing.
Suddenly, any decision arrived at by the committee that was not approved by Khan was reverted. Suddenly anyone that nurtured different opinions or saw the situation from a different perspective found themselves on the sideline. Suddenly Khan became so powerful that anyone that dared to oppose his decisions automatically was ostracized. This is certainly not healthy for a democratic institution.
I believe that Affeeze Khan has a lot of talent that can be used for the boxers’ development.
My only concern is that he has become too powerful because he believes that he is indispensable. For four long years the boxers have been forced to endure less than they deserved and were told that it is for their own good. The time has arrived to let their choice for president know that they are in control and are calling the shots.