Archive | November, 2015

Allow South Africa’s Women’s Sports Teams To Participate In 2016 Rio Olympics By Cheryl Roberts

23 Nov



IMG_8434Some of South Africa’s women sports teams have achieved qualification criteria for the 2016 Rio Olympics, amongst them being the national women’s football team, rugby sevens and hockey. However, together with the happiness of having attained the Olympic qualification, much sadness is prevailing because this qualification doesn’t mean the teams are going to the Rio Olympics. That’s not if SASCOC, the country’s controlling sports structure, has its way.

Football, hockey and rugby qualified through the continent’s African qualifier, which is the Olympic qualification stipulated by their international federations. SASCOC, as South Africa’s sports body overseeing elite and high performance participation in sport has the final acknowledgement about which team or athlete will represent SA and participate in the Olympics.

SASCOC is concerned about attaining medals and finalist positions and in this process they are adamant about ‘not taking passengers’ to the Olympics. So SASCOC has agreed with the national sports federations in SA that qualifying through Africa doesn’t guarantee the team or athlete final Olympic selection. This is because final Olympic participation is being based on the team or athlete having a top five world ranking.

None of SA’s women’s sports teams of women’s football, rugby or hockey are ranked in the top five in the world. Women’s hockey is ranked highest, at number 11, in the world. Women’s football and rugby is lowly ranked. SASCOC has a signed agreement with some of the sports federations, that African qualification doesn’t guarantee Olympic representation and participation.

Already, the women’s hockey team has been informed that, despite their African qualification berth, the women’s hockey team won’t be going to the Rio Olympics. Women’s football appears to be confirmed as an Olympic participant, this despite the team being lowly ranked in the world. Women’s sevens rugby is yet to be confirmed as a Rio Olympics participant.

There’s a severe injustice being done here to exclude south Africa’s women’s sports teams from participating in world sports events, just because they are not world class and not high up in the world rankings.

How do you expect or country’s sportswomen to become world class and world and Olympic champions when are unjustifiably denied full support and resources on their sports journey? How do you expect part-time sportswomen and sports teams to compete with professional and salaried elite sportswomen from around the world, when SA’s sportswomen still compete with chains?

I’m of the opinion and belief that SA’s women in sport and sportswomen must be supported at every stage of their participation in sport. They must not be excluded because some officials, most of them men, have decided they are not world class. By all means apply those selection guidelines to sportsmen and men’s sports teams, but not to sportswomen.

South Africa’s sportswomen need all the support and encouragement they can get. That’s because they deserve it! Ever since they were born, our sports girls and sportswomen have had to suffer because of colour and gender discrimination and gender inequalities, up until and even after they retire from international sport. Most times, it’s an uphill struggle, littered with adversity, our sportswomen encounter as they try to participate in sport from grassroots to international platforms. The fact that they do achieve and attain impressive results on the African continent and in global sports events, is not only commendable but highly appreciated. Each qualification and achievement of a SA sports girl and sportswomen motivates young women athletes to believe they can also achieve.

SA’s sportswomen cannot and should not be compared to men in sort and sportsmen to attain the same highly rates of world participation. That’s because the sportsmen get the financial resources while sportswomen get some handout here and there and the smallest budgets.

SA’s women’s hockey team is shattered after being told they wont be going to the Rio Olympics; this after they have sacrificed their jobs, careers and studies and paid personal costs to participate internationally. Both the women’s football and rugby sevens teams are internationally weak when compared to international rankings. Women’s hockey is the highest ranked of the three women’s teams. Both football and rugby teams are not expected to medal at the Olympic Games and should struggle to go beyond the group stages of participation. SASCOC maintains that a sports federation like SA Hockey agreed to sign off an understanding that didn’t guarantee Olympic participation via African qualifier. How could the hockey officials do this, knowing how the SA women’s hockey team has battled for sponsors an ad to pay their own international participation costs? Blame the officials, not the players for agreeing to this agreement!

For a country which doesn’t look after its sportswomen the way it supports its sportsmen, we must never expect the same world class results from all our sportswomen. At the same time, we must not suffocate and strangle their sports aspirations and hopes.

All qualifying women athletes and women sports teams must be given every opportunity to improve their world rankings and status; most importantly, be give all the support to gain confidence as they compete against formidable and fierce opponents of countries who believe in and support their sportswomen.


Black Cricketers Justified In Calling Out White Privilege And Preference In SA Cricket By Cheryl Roberts

17 Nov




IMG_2243I don’t know where they found it, but black cricketers have claimed the strength to confront SA cricket’s governing body, Cricket South Africa, about the representation status of black cricket within the national men’s cricket team.

In a letter penned by black cricketers and signed off with #DrinksCarriersMustFall, it’s clear to see the confidence and inspiration to challenge national sports federations when black sports lives are being suffocated, has undoubtedly arrived directly from the student resistance and protests at South Africa’s tertiary institutions.

I give accolades to the black cricketers for challenging cricket’s officialdom, for asking cricket’s leaders and management why black crickets are being suffocated and forced to breathe with little air, while white cricketers are given all the space to flourish.

The black cricketers write in their letter to CSA, how they are ‘sick and tired’, despite being selected, of not making it to play for the national team and being drinks carriers. The players have had enough; they are claiming their blackness as real and not fake or untalented. They are speaking out, challenging the white privilege and protection occupying SA’s national cricket team.

And yes, the black cricketers are justified! Because for too long they have been discarded, unrecognised and given raw deals, irrespective of the colour of national coaches and selectors. Without having an organised civil society voice speaking out and for them, the black cricketers have engineered their activism in sport, telling cricket officials they are not going to be used as ‘drinks carriers; when they can play cricket.

It’s about time CSA was challenged. In the 20 or so years of its existence, the facts exist that tell the brutal tale of how talented black cricketers, especially Black African players could didn’t get chances to see beyond the cricket’s misty provincial landscape.

In sport the world over, including South Africa, sports officials and managers favour muting and curbing their members from speaking out against wrongs and injustices. Players, athletes, sportswomen and sportsmen are warned not to ‘speak to the media’ or ‘face disciplinary action’.

Over the past two decades I have written about the injustices meted out to black cricketers, including players and coaches and black African cricketers. I have asked what has become of developing and emerging cricketers? Why have black African cricketers not surfaced and played representative matches for the national team?

In the first decade of post-apartheid cricket, CSA’s then CEO, Ali Bacher was the architect of cricket development which kept black cricketers being regarded as ‘development’ players, never good enough for playing international cricket. Bacher had an uncritical media popularise CSA’s development initiatives which informed the public how black children and youth were being ‘developed’. All this time it was the adult white men cricketers who were getting the opportunities galore to play international cricket and represent South Africa.

CSA has, over the years, despite having black officials and leaders been unjustifiably cruel to black cricketers. Pressure was mounted for black cricketers to be recognised and acknowledged, to be given the same chances given to white cricketers. As black cricketers made their debuts, they had to take the five week haul and score the runs, or face being dropped und told ‘they were not ready’ for international play.

Years ago pressure was on CSA to field a black African cricketer. Thankfully, CSA’s prayers were answered. Fast bowler Makhaya Ntini came through from grassroots to the international field, to not only take wickets for SA, but to be rated world class. But then came the non-appearance and subsequent drought of Black African cricketers. Despite having the international qualities, black Africans continued to be ignored.

CSA then had to act. They reacted with a renewal of their transformation goals, stipulating required numbers of black cricketers at franchise level. After SA’s disappointing world cup performance, where the only black African world cup cricketer never got to play a game, South Africa’s national cricket team got back onto the international calendar of play.

Surprisingly, the national team has favoured white player representation, with some black cricketers, but just one or two black African players. Now the black cricketers have had enough and are asking why should they be dealt such low blows and be used in the national team just as ‘twelfth man’ and ‘water carrier’.

A litany of insults has been dished out to black African cricketers with either their non-selection or them not being played in an international game. However, a litany of chances and opportunities has been awarded to many under-achieving and under-performing white players. In their letter, the black cricketers have told the CSA, to either have confidence to play them or don’t select them, but not to use them as ‘political pawns’.

This is powerful, conscious activism by the black cricketers. It is needed and welcomed. The black cricketers are human and have the cricket prowess. Why must they be treated as perpetual developing players well into their 20’s and 30’s? And why do national selectors and coaches have no faith or confidence in black cricketers?

This activism by the cricketers should stimulate critical debate and inspire sports people to speak out against the injustices in sport in South Africa and white privilege prevailing in cricket and rugby and several other sports.IMG_2243

South Africa’s SportsWomen Must Protest Gender Inequalities In SA Sport By Cheryl Roberts

9 Nov

IMG_1408South Africa’s women in sport and sportswomen, have for decades, been given the crumbs of sport administration, funding and sponsorship and media allocation by those who control the sport industry and all its mechanics of operation. SA’s sportswomen have complained and spoken out against gender inequalities and discrimination. However, the voices are too few and too soft.

Who are the women in sport relying on to take them out of bondage? Surely not Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula? Neither the male-dominated SASCOC! So when are the sportswomen going to lead their ‘women in sport against gender inequalities and discrimination’ resistance and protests?

This spectacular, legitimate and authentic student protests around South Africa should be motivation and inspiration for the millions of women, those women who consume sport either as spectators and supporters or participants in organized sport, to engage in protest action and call out gender discrimination in sport.

Sportswomen the world over are increasing their voice against gender inequality in sport, against the crumbs dished out to sportswomen, against the battles encountered by women in sport while men in sport receive huge sponsorship payouts, salaries and payouts.

Over the past two months, at last three South African women’s sports teams have qualified for the Rio Olympics. They are the national women’s rugby sevens team, women’s football team (Banyana Banyana) and the women’s hockey team. It’s not been an easy road to Olympic qualification for these women’s sports teams who’ve had to face uphill challenges. It’s shocking to note that no national professional league, allowing the women players to participate in sport full-time and as professionals, exists for women’s football, rugby and hockey and for all other sportswomen.

It’s disgusting that some of the national players in hockey had to personally pay their international traveling costs to represent their country. Some professional athletes, like javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen complain about the inadequate money received from SASCOC’s Operation Excellence. Women’s sports like softball don’t have sponsorship.

It’s a litany of gender biases and discrimination against women in sport. Yes, some funding and sponsorship allocation is made available to develop and assist women in sport. But the money and assistance is too little.

The time is ripe for sportswomen to protest, to engage in protest action that will challenge government sports departments and corporate for their neglect of sportswomen’s development from grassroots to international levels of sport participation.

After this year’s women’s football world cup in Canada, the Australian women’s football team protested against their meagre salaries and bonuses. The Ghanaian women’s football team also protested after winning the gold medal at the All Africa Games. The Black Queens refused to leave their hotel until their performance salaries and bonuses were received.

South Africa’s sportswomen must not only speak out much more; they must scream and shout. They must use their women’s power and march and protest and resist and call out male hegemony of sport in SA. Most imperatively, they must not accept a few handouts here and there and go quiet when some money is received. They must be conscious of their social positioning in sport, about who is controlling them and their participation in sport. Also important, is to watch out for women who have attained leadership positions in sport but go quiet when they get international trips and meeting attendance bonuses and don’t challenge the inequalities in SA sport.

All women’s cabals in sport must be smashed! We must ask why some women are allowed to hold positions for ten years and longer, yet contribute very little to challenging male power in sport?

Oppressed, black women have shown us the power of women’s resistance. The legacies are there to inspire protest action when we know a society is discriminating against women. Women have power! Women must also have a critical consciousness which won’t allow their women’s beings to be oppressed, controlled and discriminated against by men and some elite women.

Resistance and protest action is what is needed to catapult sportswomen into action against a male controlled and oppressive sports system. Women have got to use their power and amplify their call for women in sport and sportswomen to no more be victims of gender inequalities and gender handouts here and there in sport.