8 December 2012

Zambia: Boxers' Sos - FQM Responds


AS I write this week's column, I'm particularly elated by the awesomely positive response I received from First Quantum Minerals (FQM) to last week's piece titled: "Another boxer seeks sponsorship" in which I wrote about Kitwe-based budding boxers Agrippa Tembo and Sarah Nyoni who, separately, sought sponsorship from me to further their ambitions.

I told both Sarah and Agrippa that I was a mere columnist who could only highlight their plight and threw the gauntlet to promoters and the corporate world to take up their cause.

Well, Davies Mulenga, FQM public relations consultant read the article and called me on Saturday and proposed a meeting for Monday to discuss the matter and we met for about one and a half hours at Hotel Inter-Continental in the evening, where I broke down what Sarah and Agrippa were looking for in terms of sponsorship.

But when I did, Mulenga, a former TIMES staffer like me, wasn't altogether satisfied and suggested that I request the two boxers to submit full and detailed lists of their needs so that FQM could assess them and see how and where they could come in.

At this writing, Agrippa had submitted his list through me and I, in turn, forwarded it to Mulenga. I was still expecting Sarah's list.

Mulenga explained to me the FQM philosophy regarding sponsorship and said the company was deliberately leaning towards sponsor-starved disciplines line boxing, tennis and scrabble, among others.

He noted that football icons have been around for many years and asks:"What about icons in other disciplines like boxing, tennis, scrabble and other sponsors-starved sports?"

"Our interest in the young female budding boxer and young man who wants to gun for major boxing accolades is because of the strong and neat fit between FQM's commitment to ensuring that benefits from the minerals wealth of the nation flow in a significant and sustainable manner to the majority of Zambians."

"FQM's approach to positively re-cast minor sports serves as a precursor to how sports in general can rapidly progress to a level where Zambia can start gunning for Olympic medals."

That might be a reality in the near-future - thanks to the attention FQM is giving the sponsors-starved sports disciplines.

A little research shows that in the last 18 months, FQM has invested more than K500 million in low-profile sports in terms of corporate sponsorship. In the bigger context of sports development, the London, Toronto and Lusaka stock exchange-listed metals and mining company has invested in excess of K5 billion in the last few years.

Part of that investment has helped to spur the success of Zambia's number one sport - soccer through funding operations of the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ), and ensuring that the football-crazy Zambians followed the action from the crucial qualifiers to the final whistle of the 32 games played at the 2012 AFCON Championship co-hosted by Guinea and Gabon.

The mining company that has also paid K11 trillion in taxes to Government since 2006 to date believes that support of other less-sponsored sports such as boxing will act as a huge catalyst to success in this discipline. Of course, the full import of that is significant and sustainable both at the individual and country levels.

Within the context of a deep-seated practice of maximising benefits and opportunities for people in communities where FQM operates, Mulenga highlighted specific benefits it has provided to low-profile sports. Zambia Rugby Football Union (ZRFU), scrabble Association of Zambia, Zambia Tennis Association and Zambia Ladies Golf Association (ZLGU) are some of the sports associations that have received financial boost from FQM.

Well, what else can I say except to thank QFM for their consideration of the "underdog" disciplines and wish the two budding boxers the very best of luck as things begin to look up for them.

mwale.simon@yahoo.co.uk / 0966 755 574

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