Children Of Anti-Apartheid Sport Triumph Internationally By Cheryl Roberts

14 Mar

The phenomenal talents of South Africa’s male sprint athlete, Wayde van Niekerk are being applauded throughout the international athletics family and especially in the athlete’s home country.
The significance of these feats achieved by the young world champion is that is apartheid had gone on for more years and decades and SA remained an international pariah country, ostracised and isolated from world sport the young athletes like Wayde van Niekerk, Caster Semenya and Akani Simbine would still not have international participation to demonstrate their world class athletics prowess.
Reflecting on and admiring the record breaking feats achieved by young Wayde van Niekerk, one is reminded over and over again about the tireless work undertaken by anti-apartheid sport activists.
Today, young South African athletes in several sports, who are the children of the generations that were forced to challenge apartheid sport, benefit from the willingness and desire to fight for freedom and to sacrifice their personal sports ambitions.
The children have grown up, seizing the opportunities created for them by the advent of a democratic era in SA, and displaying their sports talent on the continental and world sports stages. Wayde van Niekerk’s mother, Odessa Krause was a champion anti-apartheid athletes, international cricketer Lonwabo Tsotsobe’s father played provincial rugby and got his non-racial sport colours, Marion Marescia was one of SA’s finest women hockey players and her recently retired daughter, Marsha went on to captain the SA women’s hockey team and to represent SA internationally. There’s also world top twenty tennis doubles player, Raven Klaasen who has played at Wimbledon and several grand slam tennis tournaments, an opportunity denied to his champion anti-apartheid tennis playing father, Jappie Klaasen. There are many examples of people who have the talent and potential to represent SA internationally but were denied this right because apartheid restricted people according to their skin colour.
It was 60 years ago, in 1956, that the Nationalist regime announced the introduction of apartheid legislation in sport. Several laws were passed which impacted on and affected participation in sport. What apartheid legislation in sport meant is that the white minority population would represent apartheid South Africa internationally and the white minority would receive government funding for sport while the oppressed majority would be excluded from government funding and would not be allowed to represent the country they were born in and lived in.
The anti-apartheid sports leaders and officials through their vibrant, sincere and fierce organisations such as the South African Soccer Federation (SASF), South African Sports Association (SASA), South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SANROC) and South African Council On Sport (SACOS) fought a tireless and principled fight against apartheid in sport and society.
From the 1950’s to 1990’s, oppressed South African people played sport in their communities which boasted minimal resources and inadequate sports facilities and equipment; they loved and enjoyed participation in sport. They also yearned to represent their country internationally.
There was significant talent amongst the oppressed people during the horrendous apartheid era. But this talent could never represent its country and compete internationally.
People who played anti-apartheid, non-racial sport knew they were playing sport for freedom; that only when the oppressed were liberated from apartheid and freedom was achieved would South Africa be able to participate in world sport as a democratic country.
The children’s triumphs on the international sports terrain present parents with much pride and happiness and also our country, South Africa. And whenever international feats and achievements are recorded, we are reminded about the sacrifices of the anti-apartheid sports generation; the officials and leaders who personally committed their lives to freedom from apartheid.
Had the elimination of apartheid and the ushering in of a democratic government in SA been further delayed, this generation of international athletes might have missed international participation and the achievement of their outstanding results such as Wayde van Niekerk, the world 400m champion.
None of the children of anti-apartheid sport parents and families were born into wealth and, just as their parents struggled to participate in and stay in sport, so too did they, in their formative years in community and school sport. But as their teenage years approached, their sports talent got noticed and couldn’t be ignored. Soon the youngsters were representing SA internationally at youth level sports events. Today, they have developed into world class sports talents.
While we revel in their sports achievements and celebrate their successes and achievements and feel for them through their disappointing times, whenever ever forget the anti-apartheid sports struggle for freedom which ensured that future generations of black people, like the present generation, would never be denied the opportunities denied to their parents and grandparents.IMG_3267

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