I have just read in an Australian newspaper that Roland Schoeman, world record holder and one of South Africa’s top swimmers, has been offered Millions of Dollars to defect to and subsequently represent The Kingdom of Qatar.
Qatar is an oil-rich Middle Eastern country that has no swimming history whatsoever. Here in my comfy armchair, I am absolutely furious that this has happened. I remembered how disgusted I was with Qatar when they bought Shaheen, a Kenyan athlete, in the same way.
And now they’re trying the same with one of our very own.
While I abhor what Qatar is doing, I don’t know how I would judge Roland if he took the money and swam. He gets no support financially or otherwise from any of the South African sports bodies. This really pisses me off, because without people like Roland and Ryk Neethling the administrators wouldn’t have thier cushy jobs.
But it is not just about principles. A consequense of these principles is that sportsmen like Roland & Ryk struggle financially and they almost always have to depend on sponsorships to make a living. And you can only get sponsorships if you’re at the very top of your discipline. If it wasn’t for the American University swimming scene, guys like Roland wouldn’t be able to practice their craft.
So even though I would be very sad to see this bright star leave SA, I’m not sure I can judge him.
I must stress though that sofar nothing suggests that Roland has accepted the offer and I really hope he doesn’t.