Archive | January, 2013

My latest blog: African Football Grows Our African Pride

31 Jan

African Football Contributes Significantly To Pan-Africanism

 By Cheryl Roberts

Admittedly, belief in Africa’s capabilities and pride in our achievements is not yet firmly established in the minds and hearts of all South Africans. African football gives Africans much pride as we follow our awesome footballers in the current edition of African Cup of Nations (AFCON 2013) and football leagues outside of Africa, especially the rich European leagues, amidst Africa’s many challenges, deficiencies and negatives.

Decades of political, social and economic problems in several African countries have drained Africa, yet football has brought unrivalled pride and confidence to Africa. Countries riddled with internecine strife and horrendous pasts, like Rwanda, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Liberia, South Africa have been united by football when their national teams compete internationally.

African football is mighty powerful. Although a sports structure, the confederation of African football (CAF), simultaneously exploded football and catapulted Africa onto the world stage. It was in the Sudan that CAF was born 55 years ago together with Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa as founding member countries. It was South Africa that would face the first expulsion from CAF in 1960 because of the country’s apartheid policies.

The 55th anniversary of the Confederation of African Football, whilst representing the successes and achievements of the African continent’s organized football structure, also highlights the several challenges which Africa since the de-colonisation of Ghana in 1950, Africa’s first independent and post-colonial country.

CAF’s 55th year of existence should not go unnoticed. It is a structure that has been able, though sport and particularly football, to achieve Pan-African unity and unite a disparate and divided continent. CAF has achieved the strength, confidence and global recognition, yearned for so much by Africa, more than any other African structure which still struggles to be acknowledged as a political and economic force by world structures such as the United Nations and World Trade Organization. It was the dynamic explosion of football under the organized leadership of CAF which catapulted post-colonial Africa onto the world stage.

Although a sports structure, CAF has had to have its finger on the political pulse of Africa because the internal conflicts which characterise several African states have impacted on the organization and development of CAF. Decades of political, social and economic problems in most African countries have drained Africa but football has brought unrivalled pride and confidence to Africa. Countries like Rwanda, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Liberia, South Africa have been united when the national teams compete internationally. It’s the solid foundation and organizational expertise of CAF which has kept Africa in the international spotlight.

Through all the victories though, the challenges have remained, becoming more complex and at times making it difficult to administer the beautiful game throughout all areas and communities of the continent. Africa’s poor and deficient infrastructure, together with lack of strategic and co-ordinated development and fair distribution of financial resources, have served as major hindrances to the development of football.

Long-serving CAF President, Issa Hayatou has remarked in an interview: “This is a difficult job. Africa is a complex society with different nationalities, ethnic and tribal differences, religious differences and all that, and you just have to manage peace, harmony and even good feeling among the different peoples and orientations.”

The winds of change which were sweeping through Africa, at the advent of independence, baptised African sports leaders with a sense of freedom, self-belief and pride in themselves as Africans. And nowhere was this pride more evident than in CAF’s flexing of the muscles in its fight against racism, discrimination, oppression and anti-colonial rule.

Another victory for African football was CAF’s struggle for additional world cup berths for Africa. FIFA agreed in 1990 to increase Africa’s places from two to five. An equally impressive victory was getting FIFA to rotate host continents for the World Cup Finals, effectively globalising the game and giving both developed and developing continents and countries an opportunity to host the world’s biggest football event.

Post-90 world football has seen a proliferation of African football talents signed up for top teams in lucrative leagues and rich clubs, players such as Liberia’s George Weah, Ghana’s Abedi Ayew, South Africa’s Lucas Radebe and Benni McCarthy, Cameroon’s Roger Milla, Zambia’s Kalusha Bwalya, Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba and Cameroon’s Samuel Eto. African football administrators have also made their presence felt, amongst them being former CAF President, Ydnekatchew Tessema of Ethiopia, CAF President Issa Hayatou from Cameroon, Danny Jordaan of South Africa, Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Mourad Fahmy of Egypt.

Given Africa’s post-colonial challenges, the successes and achievements recorded by CAF, in the interest of African football, should be appreciated by all of Africa and us as Africans. The mistakes have also been made, but we should fully comprehend the pivotal role played by CAF in challenging European domination of FIFA and advancing Africa, instead of accepting a subservient position within world football. CAF’s role in contributing to Pan-Africanism is immense and has achieved in this regard, thus displaying the power of African unity and Pan-Africanism.

(Admittedly, the administration and leadership of CAF needs to be assessed and reviewed in another article.)Imagelog 

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Why Do Gay/Non-Heterosexual People Need To ‘Come Out’ Publicly? By Cheryl Roberts

19 Jan

 Jodie Foster’s acceptance speech of an illustrious award at the Golden Globe Awards has been welcomed by some as her ‘coming out’ speech.

Okay, there were the rumours over the years, that Jodie Foster wasn’t heterosexual, that she was gay. They were just rumours. Jodie herself hadn’t publicly admitted or acknowledged that she was not sexually interested in men.

There’s much pressure from society on well-known, public, highly achieving, successful people to admit publicly they don’t subscribe to a heterosexual way of life or lifestyle. These demands become more rampant when there’s a slight indication or rumour or scandal that the person may be gay, like hanging out too much with the same gender and not being in a heterosexual marriage.

For those who prefer or welcome coming out announcements, especially by the high-profile, public person, it’s because it gives ‘acceptance’ that not everyone accepts a heterosexual society. It also demonstrates that heterosexism has no right to claim ownership of sexuality as being the only sexuality.

And, quite honestly, it’s just way too cool to let society know that so and so high profiles are gay. It’s like ‘F-your heterosexism’.

I am urged to ask and try to answer why must non-heterosexual people announce their ‘coming out”; after all society doesn’t demand this of heterosexuals to declare their sexuality or sexual preference.

It has irked me for a long time that an emphasis is placed on non-heterosexuals making public their sexual preference/choices/sexuality.

Why do you announce you’re coming out? That you are gay? That you are having same gender sexual relations and relationships? Why should society and the public know when you don’t have the right to their coming out announcement?

It’s the same with sports people: that instance when there’s a hint or rumour that the person is non-heterosexual or gay, then they must announce publicly and admit they are gay, as if you owe that explanation to heterosexual society.

And then, when you have publicly come out, you are referred to as a gay actress, gay writer, gay film-maker, gay activist, gay sportswoman/sportsman. But the non-gay so and so is never labeled as the heterosexual whatever.

Years back, instead of focusing on the spectacular prowess of tennis legends, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, there was much media and small-minded people pressure on both tennis players to admit publicly they are non-heterosexual/gay.

And, once they did, society’s rumour mongering stopped. Now it was in their face with Billie Jean King and Navratilova saying comfortably and confidently ‘I don’t subscribe to or accept heterosexuality’.

I’m sure there’s a sigh of relief once the rumours are buried and the public/society acknowledgement is done. So it’s out there. No more scandaling and wondering. You have heard from the person whom you rumoured about.

I’m also irked by this coming out because I marvel at the personal sexual acknowledgement of teenagers and young adults particularly. No public coming out announcements from them, especially in this digital era of social media. They just appear in society, within family, school, family and social circles as they want to. Same gender loving people place it on social media accounts who they in a relationship with and interested in, upload photo’s on social media, display affections openly and publicly and that for them is how official who they are. That may be perceived as their ‘coming out’.

But why the emphasis on coming out and why do some non-heterosexuals particularly, just love when another has come out publicly. Perhaps publicly coming out for those who do this is to give a thumbs up to non-heterosexual non-gender conformity, to same gender loving, being who and what you are.  

 I guess what I’m really interested in knowing is why should non-heterosexual people have to be pressurized to publicly acknowledge anything to do with their sexuality. After all, heterosexuals don’t face this pressure.

I’m not saying people should not ‘announce’ their coming out and I definitely have no right to say it’s wrong. I’m asking why succumb to the pressure? Or is it not a matter of succumbing, but just throwing it out there and letting it be known whatever your sexuality.

Of course, We Support Bafana Bafana! But We Don’t Like When They Can’t Score Goals! By Cheryl Roberts

18 Jan

On the eve of AFCON 2013, to be hosted by South Africa and staged at various venues in our 2010 Football World Cup host country, it appears that our beloved national football team Bafana Bafana is not only playing other AFCON opponents but are seemingly also up against their country’s supporters.

When President Jacob Zuma visited Bafana Bafana to wish them well and convey South Africa’s support, President Zuma stressed to Bafana Bafana they are not to worry about the criticism and negative opinions about their play; instead, they are to concentrate on doing their best.

Nothing wrong with those remarks from SA’s President. I would endorse that encouragement. However, after much criticism, ridicule and withdrawal of support, following bad performances it would appear that Bafana Bafana doesn’t have the support or respect of the country they play for and represent: that South Africans are against their national football team.

Seemingly, Bafana Bafana has two opponents: one being the team on the field and the other being a team South Africa of anti-Bafana Bafana spectators.

I am not against our beloved national team, Bafana Bafana. What I don’t like and what I detest seeing is our national team being unable to win. A national team unable to score goals and who are not one of Africa’s leading football playing countries, despite South Africa being one of Africa’s richest football playing countries.

I know it’s not easy to win on the field. I know that the beautiful game which is played in just about every working class community across the world, is extremely competitive and that winning international matches, tournaments and trophies is no easily achieved challenge.

South Africa got automatic entry into AFCON 2013 Finals and is participating in AFCON 2013 Finals on a host country ticket. The reality existed that Bafana Bafana might not have qualified for AFCON 2013 Finals. SA also did not qualify for AFCON 2010, despite being FIFA’s 2010 Football World Cup Finals host country.

South Africans love the beautiful game; we support our national football team. What we don’t support and give acknowledgment to is a Bafana Bafana team that can’t score goals and win matches, especially in lieu of the fact that football is a heavily funded sport and SA’s professional league is one of the best and richest on the African continent.

No, we are not just recklessly criticising our national football team; neither do we think they are inferior because they are South African and neither have we lost all faith in Bafana Bafana.

What we are critical of is Bafana Bafana on the field; the Bafana that has a low world ranking and is not one of Africa’s best football teams and boasts no world class internationals; this after hosting a football World Cup and with all the resources and money that the sport receives.

In wishing Bafana Bafana only the best, saying that we want them to perform well and urging them to ignore the rampant criticism, President Zuma made it look like South Africans are against their country’s football team and that it’s a scenario of ‘us – Bafana’ versus ‘them – South African supporters’.

I do get disappointed when Bafana lose and go down on international and CAF rankings. I am critical when Bafana lose matches they should win and I don’t have confidence in the team when they are on a losing streak. And this is because our Bafana Bafana doesn’t deliver positive results on the field.

And yes, as consumers of the beautiful game, it’s our privilege and right to either criticise or applaud our national football team. How can we accept our national team’s low ranking, goal drought and successive losses and draws when we know the sport of football and the national team should be producing and delivering POSITIVELY.

After all the funding and sponsorship given to football, we are asking why we not producing world class football players and winning matches?

SA’s youth football teams have over the years been weak, failing to qualify for Africa’s youth finals and for world youth tournaments. Why are we in this state? (this requires analysis, in a separate article, of the state of football in South Africa).

I do support my country’s national football team, but I don’t like when they can’t score goals and don’t win. I understand that winning football matches are no easy challenges, unless you are playing very, very weak opponents.

I can’t accept a weak Bafana Bafana team and players who don’t give 100% effort and contribution. And neither do I think supporters and fans should not be critical of Bafana’s dismal performances.

Despite the disappointment of much mediocre play and losses, coupled with our criticism, when AFCON 2013 kicks off in Johannesburg on Saturday 19 January, I will be a Bafana Bafana supporter and fan.

I would be delighted should they win AFCON 2013, but I won’t accept ‘they did their best’ if they display poor quality and dismal performance football.Image

Open Letter to Fikile Mbalula, South Africa’s Minister of Sport: Cleanse South African Sport Of Elite Control And Domination: From Cheryl Roberts

15 Jan

Dear Minister Mbalula

Re: Focus On South African Sport, Root Out The Negatives

You may be disappointed that you were not elected as one of the ANC’s top six officials at the ANC’s 2012 elective congress. However, I’m writing a letter to you, saying don’t be disappointed; rather welcome this opportunity as a chance for you to concentrate on your paid job which is to oversee South African sport.

During your tenure as a cabinet minister, you must demonstrate what is expected of government in transforming South African society; give leadership to your government responsibility and ensure that sport in Sport Africa is developed, organized and managed in the interests of South Africans, and not only benefit a controlling elite. Should you be able to achieve this, you would have shown your leadership mettle and how sport can be a model of transformation for our non-racial, democratic South Africa.

Firstly, Minister Mbalula, I must plead with you to please concentrate on building non-racial sport, never forgetting that we are a non-racial society. Seemingly, in my opinion, there is no emphasis, from your leadership, on the imperative of building non-racial sport. There is a neglect of talking about non-racialism in society and sport and this can’t be allowed.

Secondly, you must cleanse South African sport of self-interest people who use sport for their own enrichment. You know that sport in South Africa is organized on two levels: professional or amateur sport. Professional sport is heavily backed by commercial, corporate and business interests. Amateur sport, if it does get any backing at all, relies on government funding.

In this non-racial, democratic era of South Africa, its incumbent for us to acknowledge that South African sport receives billions of financial assistance and funding, yet much of this money is not used to assist and grow sport at all levels of the sports paradigm. Instead, much of thus money is used extensively to fund a sports elite and the officials who control these sports. Sadly, grassroots sports organization and growth is neglected and left to die as slow death, because of under funding.

The elite domination of sport allows sports officials to get bonus payments, travel luxuriously and be more out of office, in the sky, booked in at high quality hotels, hiring expensive cars, attending event after event, and yet they are not productive and producing results, for what they earn their lucrative salaries. And, while this horrendous cycle turns around, involving the selected few, grassroots sports suffers and working class participation in sport is dependent on how privileged your financial situation is to allow you to watch and play sport.

This is a serious situation; I’m just not saying this, as the evidence is all there.

Some of the ailments within South African sport are leadership tenures, volunteer sports officials versus employees within sport and bonus payments and perks. Resolutions must be adopted that eliminate officials having any chance of wrongfully assuming the sports to them once they served the leadership for years. All leadership tenures must be not more than four years. This will encourage new leaders and officials to emerge and will most importantly, stop officials from staying around too long.

No more commissions of enquiry because we are tired of commissions of enquiry. The first post-apartheid Minister of Sport, Steve Tshwete introduced the inaugural commission of enquiry which debuted with spectacular evidence and resolutions concerning football. There should be only one commission of enquiry, no more. And this one should look at why and who has further disadvantaged the working class’ involvement ad participation in sport.

 

For South African sport to grow and thrive from the grassroots level, we must ensure that:

. No sports officials shall hold a term longer than four years

. No bonus payments, unless you are a paid employee and receive a 13th cheque

. No sports leader can serve as a paid employee simultaneously: you decide to either work in the sports sector or to serve sport as an administrator

. No paid employee must be connected to any business entity because this is when the rot sets in

. Gender equity must be enacted in the interests and protection and growth of girls and women in sport

. Luxurious travel, such as business and first class travel must be curtailed and this applies to all ranks

. Salaries are too exhorbitant: they must be capped

. Executives that are too bloated must be decreased for efficiency and better administration with more emphasis on delivery

 

In this non-racial, democratic era of our South African society, sport is about money; the privileged, affluent and middle class have most opportunity to consume sport because of access to money and resources whilst working class people are left to get some assistance here and there. How can we allow this unequal and inhumane gap to grow even wider, for more working class children to fall off the sports radar when we struggled and fought for a better South African sports system for all? And how can those of us who have a social consciousness even allow this widening of imbalances and inequalities in sport?

Minister Mbalula, you have the power to cleanse South African sport of elite and lavish spending, including within your Sport and Recreation SA department, which has become more of an event company which outsources government events to a few select businesses, and which seemingly concentrates on catering and lavish functions.

If South African sport is to cleanse itself of officials who are more intent on personal gain and enrichment and pay themselves bonus and massive perks, then we have to look at the root of this negative which has taken control of our sport. And one of the root causes of this state of affairs is power corrupting those when they assume leadership and become accountable only to themselves.

From: Cheryl Roberts