Significantly, two South African cricketers, Nico Van Oordt and Clive Rice, have passed away at the same time. Both cricketers are being commemorated and acknowledged by sport in general and the cricket domain.
However, the two cricketers are being remembered by two different sports constituencies within one country.
White cricketer Clive Rice represented everything that was white in South African sport. Until his passing, throughout his illness, Rice hung onto his blinkered views that white cricketers were the best and were selected on merit, that black cricketer players had to be developed until whenever.
The black cricketer, Nico Van Oordt was a non-racial, anti-apartheid sportsperson who never collaborated with or supported apartheid but chose to play sport for freedom.
Clive Rice never said apartheid in society and sport was wrong; he defended white privilege and authority in SA sport, whenever he got an opportunity. Clive Rice was the spokesperson of ‘white merit in SA cricket’. Whenever ‘quotas’ got mentioned, Rice was the media’s main man to call out quotas, talk about its negative implications in Rice’s lens and how black cricketers had to be developed. But Clive Rice the white cricketer, never spoke out about sport’s inequalities created by apartheid. He criticized the apartheid era for SA’s sports isolation and his missing out on an international career. But never did he cry out for atrocities committed by the apartheid system.
Rice got the corporate media coverage and support. He played in rebel cricket tours which broke the international sports boycott of apartheid SA.
Van Oordt was born into a disadvantaged, under-resourced community and he chose a sports life of struggle because freedom of the oppressed was more valuable to him as an oppressed, black South African. Van Oordt was a grassroots and community cricketer from the Tygerberg Cricket Club on the Cape flats. The Ravensmead-based Tygerberg CC is a club that was founded in his mother’s lounge so the boys could play on the field and not aimlessly roam the street.
Until his passing, Van Oordt, together with his legendary cricketer brother, George Van Oordt, was a committed club member. Tygerberg CC is the club which has produced international bowler, Vernon Philander and the only club in SA which, in one playing season, had both the SA woman’s cricketer and men’s cricketer of the year. No other club in SA has achieved this feat. You would always see Nico Van Oordt at club matches when Tygerberg CC played at home or the club hosted a function.
The white cricketer that was Clive Rice never celebrated the non-racial, democratic South Africa, and never was he quoted as having being grateful for liberation from apartheid’s white supremacy attitude and behaviour. Clive Rice never complimented black officials in sport and in cricket. It’s hard to believe that maybe he was just never asked his opinions and views so he could applaud the dawn of the democratic era. Instead, Rice used every media opportunity to criticize black cricketers and officials, and to speak glowingly about the talent of white cricketers. Forget about women in sport because Rice just wasn’t that kind of man to advocate for women in sport; he was after all, a sportsman whose world was all about white men in sport and cricket.
Today and for a long time, the lives of two cricketers will be missed, remembered and accounted for in their cricket communities. Depending on where you played your sport during the apartheid era and how you embraced sport in the democratic era, is how you will remember either cricketer.
For me personally, cricketers like Clive Rice never had my applause or praise; they certainly had my criticism about their white lens, racism, and white privilege privilege. A cricket person like Nico Van Oordt is respected and applauded for his decades of involvement in sport as a volunteer, an unpaid official, community and club member and his contribution to freedom.
I’m sure Nico Van Oordt will rest peacefully forever in his after life; after all his work on earth was abundant. I hope Clive Rice will finally rest forever although he doesn’t have the chance of advancing ‘white privilege and white skin as merit’.
White privilege has lost a proponent and saviour in Clive Rice. Grassroots and community cricket has lost an invaluable, unselfish, dedicated sports official with the passing of Nico Van Oordt.