Archive | March, 2015

South Africa’s Sports Stadia Must Be named After Anti-Apartheid Sports Leaders   By Cheryl Roberts

23 Mar

anti-apartheid sportSouth Africa has an abundance of sports stadia in cities and urban areas; much of this stadia is world class and constructed with sophisticated infrastructure. Some of the stadia and sports centres are named after the areas in which they are located, some are named after people, most of them men.

However, missing from the naming of the stadium and sports venues are the legendary and iconic sports leaders and sports champions of the anti-apartheid, non-racial sports era in South Africa.

When it comes to acknowledgement of people who fought tirelessly for freedom in South Africa, why have the anti-apartheid sports officials and organisations been discarded? Why has the honouring of significant, bold and fierce freedom fighters in sport been neglected and so easily dismissed?

Durban/eThekwini undertook a street/roads renaming, and renamed streets after anti-apartheid struggle people and freedom fighters. However, anti-apartheid sports officials, except for RD Naidu (a weightlifting and SA Community party official) were forgotten in the renaming process.

What about remembering the pivotal contributions of anti-apartheid, non-racial sports officials who worked tirelessly throughout the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s to have apartheid sport exposed and apartheid South Africa isolated from international sport? During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when people’s resistance organizations were banned and forced into exile, it was non-racial, anti-apartheid sport that kept apartheid in the international spotlight and forced the world to take note of the atrocities committed by the apartheid government.

We can’t and should not discard the pivotal contribution of the South African Football Federation, of the South African Sport Association (SASA), South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SANROC) and South African Council on Sport (SACOS) to building the non-racial South African nation. We can never write out of memory the fierce freedom fighters of non-racial sport; sports officials such as Father Sigamoney, Geo Singh, Dan Twala, RK Naidoo, Chief Albert Luthuli (I do note there are roads and freeways named after Chief Luthuli), Chris de Broglio, John Harris, Reg Hlongwane, Mr Rathinsamy, MN Pather, Hassan Howa, Dennis Brutus, Morgan Naidoo, Cassim Bassa, Vincent Baartjes, Taben Tengimfene, Dan Qe Qe, Regie Feldman, Matt Segers, Mervyn Johnson, Errol Vawda.  Our non-racial, anti-apartheid sports officials struggled to grow non-racial sport, most often using their personal money and resources. And in doing so, they gave dignity and respect to oppressed South Africans to enjoy sport without discrimination or reference to skin colour.

The anti-apartheid sports leaders were working class people, organizing sport at community level with no resources, using their personal time, passion and commitment to build and grow non-racial sport in SA and expose racist, apartheid sport internationally. For their anti-apartheid efforts, they were banned, house arrested, had their passports confiscated, shot at and injured by apartheid’s vicious police, forced into exile and imprisoned on Robben Island.

South Africa’s talented oppressed sportspeople participated in sport in their under-resourced and disadvantaged communities, yet they achieved world class, African and national standards of play.  And we must never forget, but forever honour and acknowledge, our ‘Stars Behind Bars’; the oppressed sportspeople who rejected apartheid and played sport for honour and dignity. There are many, many oppressed sportspeople who sacrificed their sports talent and the chance to play international sport for another country; theses sportspeople chose instead to fight apartheid and achieve freedom in South Africa.  Some of our ‘Stars Behind Bars’, I’m thinking of immediately as I write this article, are Papwa Sewgolum (golf), David Samaai (tennis), Jake Ntuli (boxer), Amos Mafokate (show jumping), Iris Barry (table tennis), Dharm Mohan (football), Yvette Petersen (tennis), Lefty Adams (cricket), Cassim Peer (table tennis), Jumartha Majola (rugby), Faghme Solomons (rugby), Shaun Vester (athletics), Temba Ledwaba (rugby).

Please note that I am noting just a few sports officials and leaders in this writing; I do acknowledge there are many, many more officials and champions who must be honoured and remembered.

Stadiums built for the 2010 football World Cup should have been named after anti-apartheid football officials such as Dan Twala, RK Naidoo or non-racial sports leader, MN Pather. In this time of corporate sport with money, power and sponsorship, South Africa is unlikely to ever have the calibre of our anti-apartheid principled, authentic, fierce sports leaders who organised sport for freedom and dignity, and not for money or personal wealth. A football official such as RK Naidoo took out a mortgage on his family home to help subsidise the non-racial South African Soccer Federation. Which sports official does that today?

The privileged, neo-liberal elements and those who have seemingly lost their social justice consciousness, controlling our non-racial, democratic South Africa may have tried to discard and write away from memory our anti-apartheid sports struggle. But this will never succeed. We are NEVER eradicating from memory the principled and unselfish sports leaders who contributed to South Africa’s freedom from apartheid discrimination and oppression.

Non-Racial Cricketers Demonstrate Power Of Sharing In Community Sport By Cheryl Roberts

16 Mar

Sometimes, I’m at my happiest when I watch grassroots sports events in the hood. Saturday was one of those moments. IMG_9013During the week, I had the option of going to watch school athletics in Stellenbosch or a community pre-season rugby festival in Khayalitsha. Still undecided on Saturday morning, I spontaneously opted for a trip to Khayalitsha. Entering the Khayalitsha stadium, I saw a cricket match being played and a junior boys rugby match.

The playing field was neglected. I couldn’t understand why the grass was long; it should have been cut by stadium maintenance.  I guess it’s because it’s a stadium in the township that stadium care is not regular or consistent. I walked across the vast field to the cricket match. It was a junior boys, under 15 cricket match between Mitchells Plain CC and Khayalistha CC. Mitchells Plain was the visiting team.

I liked what I saw, heard and encountered whilst I took out my camera and began taking the photographs. Mitchells Plain was fielding, after having posted a big score and Khayalitsha were chasing. In the half hour that I watched some of the game’s proceedings, three Khayalistha wickets fell and the game was over. This wasn’t about who won the match; it was how the match was played and enjoyed, amongst boys from working class neighbourhoods, ranging in age from 12-15.

This junior boys cricket match was a perfect demonstration of non-racial sport at community level! The junior cricketers were happy they were outdoors playing sport. Although Mitchells Plain CC dominated the match with runs, wickets and fielding, they encouraged and supported their opponents. When one of the smallest players of Khayalitsha CC came to the wicket, a Mitchells Plain fielder immediately helped him take up his position at the crease, and ensured he was ready to be bowled at. The boys reminded each other to ‘clap the batsman in’ as he walked to the crease.

Playing equipment was shared amongst the players. Khayalitsha CC had a youth coach who encouraged the boy cricketers and helped them gear up. As a wicket fell and the next batsman’s turn came up to bat, helmets, bats and shin pads were shared between the outgoing and incoming batters.

There was no arrogance about Mitchells Plain’s victory. Justifiably, the boy cricketers were joyous and happy Two players shared a 100 run partnership and another scored his first half century. Both players were smiling about their achievement. Khayalitsha CC had a younger team, some still learning to play junior club cricket. One of Khayalitsha’s batters hit the ball, then ran without his bat. Of course, he was run out, without his bat. That was a funny moment. But he wasn’t ragged and laughed at, and he didn’t cry. I know he will learn from this experience.

There were no parents watching the match. This was good, I thought. Sometimes over-ambitious parents spoil junior sports events when they want their child to excel at all costs. The two coaches never interfered with the match or pitted the boys against each other in ugly spats. They supported and encouraged the boy cricketers.

The highlight of the event was the shaking of hands after the match. This was done spontaneously between the teams. Mitchells Plain CC did the handshake by singing popular and catchy song ‘I’m in love with a gogo’. A Khayalitsha cricketer played the latest hip hop music from his phone, and then it was a musical moment to enjoy.

The teams posed for my camera; Mitchells Plain wanted to know if they’d feature in ‘The Plainsman’ and Khayalitsha asked about them being in ‘City Vision” (both are community papers). I told them I will publish them in my national publication ‘South African Sport’, which them seemed happy about because, as one player said, ‘the whole of SA would see’.

I then posed for my photo with the teams; one of Khayalistha CC’s boys confidently placed his arm around me. I knew that in ten year’s time, I’m bringing out that picture to remind me of the memories created at a sports event in the hood.

Maybe, one day one or more of these junior players will represent Western Province and South African cricket teams. On Saturday, without them knowing, they showed me the phenomenal power of non-racial, grassroots sport that still lives within working class communities.


Franschhoek Rugby Club Must Be Offered National Support   By Cheryl Roberts

11 Mar

franschhoek rugby club

The tragic bus accident involving Franschhoek Rugby Club shows how our society neglects working class/rural-based and community sports clubs, how sports clubs are easily discarded as being ‘unimportant nationally and to South Africa’. During this horrific accident, players lives were lost, supporters and players were injured and hospitalised. And a rugby club and community is left traumatised and stressed. Now the club and families must look around for money to help pay for funeral and hospitalisation and postcard costs. In my opinion, there should have been an immediate, combined response from the Minister of Sport, but especially from the Western Cape sports MEC and SARU to help with these unexpected costs that a struggling sports club now has to confront.

The official non-support from government sport (both national and provincial) and the national rugby federation, SARU for the tragic bus accident which involved the Franschhoek rugby club and community, shows how sports clubs, rooted in disadvantaged communities, are discarded and not recognized. Despite headline media coverage of the bus accident and support of the community and others like the President of the WP Rugby Union, national and provincial sport and SARU have not come forward to assist financially.

So the rugby players and supporters of this club are not international sportsmen like Tinus Lienie or Senzo or Joost van der Westhuizen. But they are a community-based sports club; a vital component of the sports network in SA. They are also important to the Franschoek community, and respected and appreciated. The club was on its way to play in Grabouw, against another under-resourced community’s rugby club. I can imagine the excitement about planning the trip to Grabouw, negotiating a cheaper bus ride, getting supporters on board, talking about the match. And then crash/bang; its injury and death time just like that.

It’s surprising that the South African Rugby Union, Western Cape government and National Department of Sport in RSA have not responded to finance funeral costs of players of Franschhoek rugby club. This community, rugby club and their families are already traumatised from this tragic bus accident; and they really don’t have extra money to fund the unexpected and tragic events in their lives.

The Franschhoek rugby club isn’t the Springbok team or the Stormers or the Boland and Western Province provincial teams. But they are just as significant to rugby as any other club or provincial team. The community has rallied to acquire assistance for burial costs to provide dignified funerals for the players. Those of us who respect community and club sport, who have associated our lives with community clubs, know and understand the depth of this tragedy.

Franschhoek rugby club is not a funded or sponsored club; neither is it a rich club. The club has players and supporters who are farm workers, the unemployed, artisans and struggling people. With minimal means and resources, the club provides a proud identification and association for the community. This is through rugby; the most popular sport in the towns and rural areas of the Western Cape and Boland. The players were not Springboks; they were club players and supporters who adored rugby in South Africa.

SARU is a mega rich sports federation in SA. SARU should have announced by the weekend that all funeral and injury costs would be taken care of by SARU. This didn’t require a national meeting; just a phone call between SARU’s President and CEO.

Players and supporters of Franschhoek rugby club are as important and significant to sport in SA, as are national teams and international players. Just because they are a club and play out of a town-based community, doesn’t mean they should be treated with insignificance or less respect. This is a working class sports team, with no sponsor, but with a passionate heart ad love for rugby.

Bus travel in community sport has been undertaken for decades in South Africa. The tragic bus accident which claimed the lives of rugby players and injured several supporters and players of the Franschoek rugby by club has traumatised the rugby loving community of Franschoek.

Support for community and club rugby in disadvantaged and under-resourced communities is phenomenal (its one of my writing ideas, to one day, write and publish about community support and love for club sport in SA).  Communities have over the decades, identified strongly with the sports club in their community, especially in rugby, football and cricket. In rural areas and towns, support for the club rugby team is big.

Clubs rooted at community level are the foundation of the sports pyramid and community clubs are the life support systems of national federations.

The community supports and loves their club, travels with their team on away matches, turns up at the grounds on home matches, shares the ecstasy of the victories and feels the pain and disappointment of the defeats. Clubs will recall how they have won matches from the grips of defeat, because the community supporters backed them to the final whistle.

The Franschhoek rugby club, like any community-based sports club is rooted in the community. Its here at the club where people enjoy rugby, identify as one community, grow into leaders and officials of sport and where sports talent is grown. The sports clubs in the towns and rural areas make do with limited resources and little money but they manage to fulfill their fixtures.

Bus travel was associated with anti-apartheid, non-racial sport when sports federations and community clubs didn’t have money and funds to use air travel or luxury buses for road travel. It was the bus driver and one bus in the community that was always associated with the sports club and provincial sports federation. Today, bus and car travel is still endorsed as a mode of transport for travel to and from sports events. Some tragic accidents have occurred from road transport.