Nick Parr, Executive Director of the International Federation of Sports for Para-athletes with an Intellectual Disability’, INAS has lamented that African athletes with intellectual disabilities are not represented at the Paralympic Games as was the case in London last year.
“I hope we can turn the tides in 2016 and beyond”, he said at a regional conference that ended in Yaoundé under the theme, “develop INAS programmes for Africa”, by the Cameroon Federation of Sports for persons with Intellectual Disabilities, Fecasdi in collaboration with INAS(created in 1985, present in 70 countries with 120,000 athletes).
Parr acknowledged that one of the challenges of sports for disabled persons is the lack of funding, but said if the federations work together with INAS they overcome some of these problems.
He said money does not have to be the problem working with the athletes as there are ways to look for people who can volunteer their time and find sponsors- wealthy commercial companies across the world happy to support young athletes from Africa to take part in international competitions. INAS is there to serves as a bridge between the federations and sponsors.
Going by him, there is a desire to see more athletes with intellectual disability from across Africa and the Yaoundé meeting was an avenue to develop more relationships, build new networks and encourage participation.
“I always want to see more athletes with intellectual disability doing more sports, and Africa is an area INAS want to focus its activities as an area with few members and athletes”.
On the occasion he edified participants with information about INAS, future plans and ambitions as well as competitions open to athletes with intellectual disabilities.
He urged participants to go back to their countries to find the athletes, support and give them the chance to take part in high level competitions.
Through the seminar, three countries none INAS members would gain membership besides the contact of 35 people who would now share information about INAS in their countries and sports organisations, Parr rejoiced at the achievement of the seminar.
Jean-Marie Aleokol Mabieme, President of Fecasdi for his part decried the situation of athletes with intellectual disabilities in Cameroon.
This category of athletes he regretted, are not taken care and for the fact that they do not got to school like other athletes, the best way to support them is to enable them practice sports.
The weight of ignorance and tradition is a hindrance to the development of this category of persons who are penalised by society, he said.
For him, African countries need to learn how to promote adapted physical sports, how to create federations in their countries and give them opportunity for athletes to go to the Paralympic Games as physically disable persons.
Aleokol regretted that being in this movement for the past years he has been using his personal resources to support athletes with intellectual abilities.
He would like to see the Ministry of Social Affairs collaborate with Fecasdi and the Minister of Sports and Physical Education help athletes go to competitions.
Though laws on persons with disabilities exist, he lamented that in practice there is no implementation and for him there is need to change the mind set of teachers, managers to be more humane and not focus much on money.
The Yaoundé regional seminar was chaired by INAS President, Brazilian Jose Amaury Russo alongside Prof. Jan Burns, Psychologist.