Archive | January, 2014

‘Why We Get Excited When Black Athletes Perform Internationally’ By Cheryl Roberts

30 Jan




As a sports fan, I am always impressed and proud of South Africa’s athletes when they achieve on the international sports circuit. But I’m doubly proud and happy when black athletes achieve commendably and turn in world class performances.

Spectacular international performances by South African sportspeople, particularly black athletes of parents whom never had a chance to play international sport during the apartheid era, give us gratitude and satisfaction to see the children of oppressed sportspeople achieving.

And, it reinforces our belief, argument and advocacy, that blacks must not be discriminated against or overlooked when it comes to selection in sport, because the talent amongst blacks runs very, very deep.

For purposes of this opinion, I mention particularly, the tennis player, Raven Klaasen who reached his first grand slam tennis title at the 2014 Australian Open. Then there’s Marshia Cox, captain of the South African women’s hockey team, who is not only playing at the top of her game but is playing as one of the world’s best hockey players in a hockey festival currently being played in Cape Town.

And then there are the world class performances of Test cricket bowler, Vernon Philander, the international wickets of bowlers, Lonwabo Tsostobe and Rory Kleinveldt.

Klaasen, Cox, Philander, Tsotsobe and Kleinveldt are all children of highly successful and sports achieving parents.

However, they were no ordinary people in sport. The parents of children who are achieving internationally played sport as oppressed South Africans who chose to play sport for freedom, to contribute to the elimination of apartheid. And in doing so, they also didn’t get the opportunity to represent their country. These were the sacrifices made by people who played non-racial, anti-apartheid sport; sportspeople who were in the trenches for freedom from oppression.    

Playing anti-apartheid sport was no easy choice. Our sport was played outdoors on sandy grounds, indoors in small, confined spaces, with limited and inadequate lighting for night training. Non-racial sport had no government funding, no corporate sponsorships, and we had more disadvantaged resources than advantaged arenas of sports wealth. But, the talent of oppressed sportspeople surfaced, right up until the ending of apartheid and sports unity.

Many outstanding black sportspeople could have played international sport and achieve world class standards and titles. However, the horrendous system of apartheid prevented them from realizing and knowing their full sports potential and how they could compete and achieve internationally.

Sports unity and the subsequent demand for transformation in sport didn’t yield comfortably and easily, the results we wanted to see emerging for a non-racial democratic society. We had to fight, challenge and advocate for a better deal; for recognition, support and encouragement of athletes who didn’t have a white skin. This was because in the eyes of white selectors, it was only the white sportspeople who had the ability to play internationally, whilst the black youngsters and adults in sport had to be ‘further developed’.

It’s now over 20 years since we unified sport and began participating internationally. Several black sportspeople have achieved on the international sports stages but we never get tired of generating happiness from their performances.

Especially for those of us who participated in non-racial sport, who sacrificed for a free South Africa and who missed playing international sport, these are the rewards we get from our sacrifices. Klaasen didn’t win the Australian grand slam doubles title, but he’s runner-up placing is sufficient to enhance our pride.

This also applies to sports officials who sacrificed during the anti-apartheid era, gave their personal time without payment, to develop sport amongst oppressed South Africans. Today, several non-racial sport officials and leaders are leading sport in South Africa, Africa and contributing expertise in the world’s sports forums. Some of these officials are Danny Jordaan of SAFA, Haroon Lorgat of CSA, Tubby Reddy, Hajera Kajee and Gideon Sam of SASCOC who developed club sport with no resources but still managed to develop and grow participation numbers in non-racial sport.

When white sports commentators, broadcasters and writers talk and write about South African sport, they emphasise the whiteness of SA sport, they applaud and praise the privileged who benefited from apartheid.

When I write and talk about sport, I never want to forget to applaud those who sacrificed their sports lives and talent for a free South Africa, so children and adults of all colours, could have a chance to play sport and represent a democratic South Africa.

Don’t Strangle Working Class Football Fans By Cheryl Roberts

13 Jan


It’s extremely disappointing to see empty seats when South Africa hosts international sports events, especially Test cricket matches and continental football tournaments. Under discussion now is SA’s staging of CHAN 2014, almost four years after South Africa’s hosting of the world’s sports spectacle, the football World Cup Finals, yet South Africa is unable to fill stadiums when we host international football matches and continental championships.

CHAN 2014 is currently being staged in three cities in SA, over a three week tournament, involving 16 African countries. But what is the use of having expensive world cup football stadia and hosting international football tournaments without getting the football fans into the stadium?

Football’s largest fan base is the working class who love, admire, adore and respect the beautiful game. Football is a game belonging to the working class, yet the very same working class communities that provide the layers from grassroots level to international participation, are unable to enjoy CHAN 2014 because they can’t afford the money needed to be at football matches. 

The working class is broke at this time of the year, just after the festive season. How can we expect them to purchase football tickets, cover transports costs and have food money. No food is allowed into the stadium; you must purchase the over-priced and unhealthy food and drinks standing in long queues, inside the stadium.

Cape Town is a host city with support from the Western Cape government’s department of sport, yet officials from these two agencies can’t seem to understand that a successful tournament must have fans on seats, supporting the matches, cheering the players.

Football has the biggest participation rates in sport, with thousands of junior and senior players – women and men, girls and boys – registered in league programmes. If the tickets are not selling, why can’t the clubs and teams who play registered football, together with their parents, be given tickets to fill the stadium. What is the use of hosting a continental championship, that is heavily supported by sponsors and government, if people who love football can’t see the matches live because they don’t have the money.

South Africa’s vast social inequalities always impact negatively the working, who lose out on international sport. Transports costs from working class communities to Cape Town stadium are exhorbitant. The DA-administered city of Cape Town provides a free Myciti bus service from the civic centre to the stadium and from HoutBay to the stadium, yet it can’t assist the working class fans by providing free transport from the townships and the hood where the football supporters are living.

Although the first allocation of cheaper tickets were available during earlier bookings, how can you expect most working class football fans to buy privileges like football tickets when they are still hustling to pay electricity bills and school fees from two months ago.

There are several criticisms around the hosting of CHAN 2014. People who are involved in grassroots, district and provincial football feel rather left out of the sport they help organize and develop during the year, using their own time with no payment. Despite being involved in football, they were not even called upon for their organizational skills and passion for the beautiful.

I’ve spoken to several LFA and club officials and, apparently ticket sales were so low about two days before the tournament’s opening that complimentary/free tickets were hastily made available. But this was too late. LFA’s and club officials had no time to get tickets to players. Apparently national officials had books of tickets, up until kick off on Saturday and weren’t able to get them distributed.

How does CHAN 2014 organising committee, the DA-administered city of Cape Town and the DA-administered Department of Culture and Sport explain this embarrassing situation? What a waste of millions of money to host a tournament, featuring Africa’s emerging talents and future stars, yet football lovers from working class communities are deprived of being in the stadium?  

South Africa’s officials must understand that in our country of vast inequalities, watching international sport is a privilege. We have millions of sports fans but we don’t have all sports fans having disposable money to but sports tickets. We must assist the working class to be able to come into sports events instead of keeping stadia gated and only open to those who can afford international sports tickets.

Don’t strangle working class sports fans. Let’s assist the working class to make our international sports events, especially football, successful!