My Pleasure In Writing About Sport’s Inequalities By Cheryl Roberts

18 Aug

8cheryl roberts  in the rain forest in ghanaI began writing about sport at a time, in the 1980’s in South Africa, when there were no black women journalists in sports media. I was a university student, not studying sport or journalism or media. I just really wanted to write about sport, particularly about how we played anti-apartheid sport, with limited resources and no money in disadvantaged communities; yet we persevered and achieved admirable standards of play.

My teenage era consciousness in sport was primarily around society’s discrimination of people; about apartheid’s racism, brutalities and prejudice. It was at the advent of our democratic South Africa birthing that my writing opinions and consciousness took on much more about society, particularly gender imbalances in sport.

And so, I started to write much more about women in sport. From the outset, my writing and publishing was focused on black women in sport because we were discriminated against because of our gender and class and we suffer because of our skin colour.

I began saying: ‘SA girls and women want to play sport. They are bold, beautiful, talented and penniless. Why do their sport talents go unnoticed in a country which prides itself on gender equality?’

Today, whilst I admire all women performances in sport, I really commend the international success of our black women athletes. For them it is just a little more difficult to achieve their international status, given the disadvantaged socio-economics they still face.

I’ve been involved in sport from grassroots to international level. I have played club, regional, school and national sport; have coached, been a sports administrator and official, delegate to meetings and events. All the time, from my teenage sports girl years, I have been a volunteer in sport; never worked in formal employment in sport in sport and never been paid a salary. All of my participation in seminars and conferences, my research, my coaching, my administration time has all been done because I wanted to be involved and agreed to participate. The only payment for all this was my personal happiness and the joyful moments created for those I was able to interact with and share information with.

For now I concentrate on my writing and publishing, which I independently own and manage; writing and providing platforms for women in sport, challenging gender,class and racial inequalities and supporting previously oppressed athletes, as well as challenging the male-dominated and entrenched sport media.

Back in the 1980’s, I was a university student, for several years; attending three universities: two in SA (University of Natal and University of Cape Town) and one in England. Throughout my university studies, I still chose anti-apartheid sport.

I attended white-designated universities in South Africa; to do this I had to apply for a permit to study at a white university. The sports unions at apartheid’s white universities were all affiliated to apartheid sport structures which supported the government’s apartheid policies. I did not play any sports at university in SA, not even at a recreational level. After attaining three degrees in SA, the first time I ever played university sport was at university in England. I represented the University of York in the English Universities table tennis championship where I reached the semifinals; then I got selected to represent English universities at the British universities championship.

Whilst at university in England, coming out of apartheid South Africa, deprived of so much scholarship and intellectual prowess on sport and society, my world exploded before my very eyes! I was blown away by all the books on sport and how it can transform societies.  It was exactly what we needed back home, in South Africa.

One of my happiest moments in my young life was when I had my first sports article published in a newspaper. It was a story about an oppressed woman hockey player in Durban, Marion Marescia who was one of South Africa’s best women hockey players and is also the mother of SA women’s hockey international, Marsha Marescia Cox. I couldn’t stop reading the article, glancing at it in the newspaper. I then went on to write much more and have many published articles. Then it was onto opinion articles, giving my opinions about the state of the social positioning of sport in our apartheid, unequal society. I not only liked what I wrote: I also believed in what I wrote. I took a principled decision through my writings, to never support apartheid, never support an unequal society and racial prejudice.

I published my first book, rather daringly and spontaneously. I never thought about money and funding. It was my master’s thesis which was about the anti-apartheid sports struggle. I just knew this information, which I had researched, had to be read.

After that, my confidence catapulted; my belief in a free society was immense and more books followed. I distributed them freely, gave them out and people welcomed them with appreciation. Then came the start of print publications about sport in South Africa and sportswomen in SA. Today, about 25 years later, after the publication of my first print publication, I am still writing and publishing.

I have much freedom in writing. I write what must be written. My publications and books, from the outset, have never supported white privilege and white supremacy. I project and feature mostly black people in sport; their success and struggle stories. The women in sport are especially looked after and given much coverage and publicity with the publication and writing of ‘South African SportsWoman’.

I don’t write to be favourited or complimented or liked; I write and publish that what must be written. I write about our fabulous South African people in sport and also about injustices, inequalities and gender discrimination. I’m not afraid to call out racism, racial privilege, wrongs and limitations of South Africa’s sports network. I do this out of concern for a better and progressive society.


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