Yes! Grassroots Sport Says Down With Hate And Abuse Of Sportsgirls And Sportswomen By Cheryl Roberts

20 Nov

Our shock, anger and disgust is overflowing into the trenches of social justice activism and to those in power! Grassroots sport has had enough of the abuse, attacks and assault crimes committed against our sportsgirls and sportswomen and we are speaking out.

Admittedly, organized sport has seemingly been silent as a voice when women in sport have been abused. But now, our voices are angry and our words are raging: We are saying we have had enough and, no more are we remaining silent. We are demanding there must be no more abuse of our sportsgirls and women.

In the wake of the death of teenage girl footballer, Sihle Sikoji, over a week ago in Cape Town, and following the deaths of several sportswomen over the years through criminal acts caused by hate, people in sport have had enough of being seen as silent and accepting of this abuse. Now we are speaking out against the horrendous and violent abuses against sportsgirls and women.

Abuse, rape and assault of women in sport is not new; it has been happening for decades, in South Africa, in Africa and all around the world. Whilst much of the abuse has occurred within sports realms, when sportsgirls and women have been participating in sport, much of these instances of abuse have gone unreported or have not been acknowledged as occurring within sport.

As we approach another annual event of the national programme ‘16 Days of Activism Against Abuse of Women and Children’, sport is reminded that it can’t and should not remain silent about the negative goings on like abuse, rape and murder of women in sport, whether these attacks occur outside of the sports realm or within the sports jurisdiction such as a tournament, coaching clinic, development event.

We must know that sport is not just about kicking balls, winning titles and trophies: it’s about the social component and positioning of sport in society.

Chairperson of the Guguletu-based Winnies Ladies Football Club, Jeffrey Qhuma, can’t believe that women footballers associated with the club have become victims of hate. “When Winnie Qhuma had the vision, about 20 years ago to establish Guguletu’s first women’s football club, we never thought we would be suffering such sadness. We formed the club to give teenage girls and women a chance to play sport. We wanted our women footballers to enjoy football, to realize their football talent and to do better things with their lives. Now we have to face this. Sihle Sikoji joined Winnies FC in 2008 and left after a few seasons, but we still honour her young life. Sihle is now the fourth player from our club who has become a victim of assault, abuse and hate. Winnies Ladies Football Club condemns all violence against our sportswomen”.

Several sports administrators and leaders were angered and spoke out against the senseless murder of 19 year old sportsgirl and footballer, Sihle Sikoji. These are some of the responses and tributes.

“How tragic that one of our talented young footballers was robbed at a tender age of 19 years, on the eve when Banyana Banyana was to play in the 2012 CAF AWC final. Let’s not allow another girl and sportsgirl to become part of criminal statistics, but rather support and stand up for our girls who are living in fear of hate crimes. My condolences to the bereaved family of Sihle Sikoji”, said Lutfeyah Abrahams, Provincial, Chairperson Women’s Football, Western Cape.

“Violence and crime against women must stop!”, said Western Province Cricket Association President, Beresford Williams. “We aspire to the creation of a country united in diversity. It is a goal to which we all aspire and it is the path to achieving great opportunities for all. As sports organizations we have to work together that will see us celebrating a nation which is non-racial, non-sexist and democratic.

“Together we must work and intensify the fight against violence and crime against women. We condemn violence and the loss of life through crime against women. We must stand-up, fight crime and the cause of crime as women deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and justice. Violence against women must be eradicated from ours society.

“We must ensure that we develop interventions, programmes and essentially mentors who deliver, to especially our impoverished communities, education and understanding of the components of non-racialism, non-sexism and toleration of differences. Violence against woman, under any circumstances, cannot and will never be acceptable.

“Sportsmen and women need to fight for change in the way to give everyone a fair chance to participating and building a brighter, bigger and better game for all.”

Santos Football Club, one of the few professional football clubs in South Africa who have over the years supported anti-abuse campaigns, also recorded their anger and disgust.

“Santos Football Club is outraged by the senseless killing of Sihle Sikoji. We express our sincere condolences to her family, friends and fellow football players at Winnies Ladies Football Club. The respect for life has once again been violated by this terrible deed. We hope that the murderers will soon be brought to book,” said Virginia Gabriels, Co-ordinator of Santos Football Club in a statement.

“My sense of shock and sadness at the brutal and senseless killing of Sihle Sikoji, will pale in comparison to the feelings of her many friends and relatives. It is desperately sad that young womyn are not allowed to be themselves and follow their sporting dreams .My deepest condolences to those who loved and cared about her. Any sporting goals that I achieve are diminished by the continued fear that black lesbians in particular experience.My thoughts are with you,” said 2012 Olympian and South African archer, Karen Hultzer

Cape Town’s champion women’s football club, Cape Town Roses also refused to remain silent. “We as Cape Town Roses women’s football club, based in Guguletu, would like to send our heartfelt condolences to Sihle’s family and Sihle’s women footballer teammates. You are in our prayers. Cape Town Roses does not support any abuse or violence against women and girls,” said Tumi Jonas, manager of Cape Town Roses.

Ntandokazi Magaga, secretary of Khayelitsha Crusaders Women’s Rugby Team said:We are saddened by the passing of our young and talented soccer player, Sihle. Our thoughts are with the family and friends.Tolerance implies a respect for another person, not because she is wrong or even because she is right, but because she is human. Every human being deserves to live her life the way she wants and be free in her own country.Human diversity makes tolerance more than a virtue; it makes it a requirement for survival. In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay the highest tribute to our fellow teammate, sports lady and dearest sister.”

International softballer Zelda Kutumela said: “To 19yrs old precious Sihle’s family, friends and team mates my deepest condolences. Jealousy and hatred made us lose our talented young player. While we strive to develop sports crime overtake us. Well I say to Sihle: They might killed the flesh but your spirit lives on. You are a real star now.”

A statement from the Centre For Gender Justice In Sport said:”Girls and women play sport to enjoy the game, not to become another victim or survivor of abuse and hate. However, it’s another horrendous act of violence against a sports girl. One stab, one life gone. This time, it’s the life of a 19 year old teenage girl. She’s black, a teenage girl, lives in a working class hood and a footballer. Her name is Sihle Sikoji and she was, at one time in her young life, a junior player for Winnies Ladies FC in Guguletu and a registered member of SAFA Cape Town and SAFA. This hate, abuse, assault of our sportsgirls and sportswomen is CONDEMNED! (Director:Cheryl Roberts).

Also adding her voice to the campaign against abuse of sportsgirls and women is sports administrator, Tracey Saunders who said: “I extend my deepest condolences and sympathy to the friends and family of Sihle.May you remember her with joy and find comfort in each other  through the time of grieving  that lies ahead.Until such time as ALL womyn are able to be who they are none of us can be free”.

Sport is no longer remaining silent!

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