It’s difficult to believe that South Africa’s sportspeople and athletes must still personally pay for their costs to represent their country. Admittedly, this doesn’t happen in all sports; certainly not in the corporate sports such as rugby, football and cricket. But it is happening in many other sports, like hockey and swimming and most sports at provincial levels of representation.
This contributes to and sustains class division and inequality in sport and also subscribes to white privilege being maintained because the reality is that in South Africa it is whites who have access to money; much, much more than black and working class people.
Sports like hockey and swimming are white-dominated with some black participants and clubs around the country. But having to pay towards coast for international and national participation takes its toll and stresses black and working class parents who eventually can’t manage the burden anymore. This impacts on the black child and youth in sport who eventually fall off the sport’s radar and out of the sport, leaving the sport to be represented by mostly whites.
One of South Africa’s promising teenage hockey players, Tevin Kok got selected to represent SA and make his internationals senior debut in January. 19 year old Tevin, from Kokstad in KZN managed got his parents to pay his air fare to Cape Town and he secured accommodation with a friend, so that he could represent his country in an international series.
Another hockey event is due to be played in Cape Town in late February and young Tevin got selected again. Up until yesterday Tevin thought he wouldn’t be playing in the tournament because he’s parents said they couldn’t afford to pay for him. Fortunately, Tevin has enrolled at the University of Pretoria and the university’s hockey club has stepped in, saying they will pay his travel costs.
For the past years, players of both women’s and men’s senior and junior teams representing hockey, have been called upon to contribute personally towards their costs of participation.
This also happens in swimming where seniors and juniors participating in various swim championships are told they must pay towards their representation. One of SA’s promising junior swimmers, 14 year old Kwezi Duma has represented her country but her parents have had to pay towards her international participation.
This pay-to-represent doesn’t occur when athletes and sportspeople are representing official events administered by SASCOC, such as the Olympic Games and All African Games and others, and when the athletes are being supported by SASCOC. But this happens often when the sports federations participate in events organised by their continental and international federations.
In South Africa, a country of vast social and economic inequalities, this challenge of contributing and paying personally to participate nationally and internationally in sport lends itself to class status and white privilege being maintained in a sport, because whites are more able to have the money or access money, unlike black parents.
Although white parents also complain about the pressurised demands of having to pay personally for their child’s representation, the white athletes always seem to come up with the money while the black players (all athletes who are not white) struggle and sometimes get left behind.
This also happens every year for provincial representation, especially in sports like netball, softball and baseball where players in various age group teams get selected then get told they must pay for their representation and participation.
Instead of concentrating on tournament preparation, the players must concentrate on tournament fundraising, get stressed out and nervous because they don’t know if they going to make the tournament.
The national teams of hockey, swimming and netball are white-dominated with a few black players. National sports like netball are popular in working class communities and amongst blacks. Having to pay for provincial and international representation also means erecting barriers for black players in sport.
South Africa’s national sports policy should be that no athlete of whatever colour, class or gender or sportsperson must pay for international representation.
However, with so many sports federations affiliated to SASCOC and most of them, like sailing and show jumping, being white-dominated and elite, perhaps a national policy of international participation should be adopted by SASCOC, stating that only sports with majority black participation will be funded/assisted for international participation.
This is not a racist opinion or viewpoint. This is a positive, transformative opinion, one which will ensure that black and working class athletes, because of their class and colour status, will not be excluded from national and international participation in sport, because of money.