South Africa’s Youth Month Also Brings Into Rememberance The Anti-Apartheid Sport Youth By Cheryl Roberts

1 Jun

Recalling the fearless youth of the  formidable ‘76 youth generation that spoke out and protested against apartheid education’s inequalities and inferior education given to oppressed blacks, we remember the young generation of people who played anti-apartheid sport; those who sacrificed their sports talent for liberation from oppression and freedom in their lifetime.

South Africa’s oppressed black youth, including teenage youth were both powerful and devastating in their belief that oppression was non-negotiable and had to be challenged. Mostly in education, the arts and culture and sport, the youth refused to settle for oppression in their lives.

Anti-apartheid sports youth were largely located within the anti-apartheid and sports resistance organisation, South African Council on Sport (SACOS), which had thriving, efficiently organised junior sections in cricket, football, rugby, tennis, swimming, table tennis, hockey, athletics and many other sports leagues and junior sections.

The talent of oppressed youth in sport, throughout the 70’s and 80’s was immense. Youngsters in sport in almost all sports under the administration of SACOS, could have represented a free and democratic South Africa.  From the moment they chose and accepted membership of SACOS, these young players, knew they accepted that they would never play international sport.

There were many, many talented teenager and youth players in anti-apartheid sport. I’m not mentioning most of them here, but I do want to recall the athletics prowess of teenage athlete Shaun Vester. Running on the Cape Flats, Vester recorded world class times before he was a senior athlete. He was sensational on the track and attracted world attention.

The determined youth of the 1976 protests uprisings, motivated and energised the anti-apartheid sport youth to believe in their anti-apartheid and non-racial sport campaign; to never give in to oppressive forces and to never believe that blacks were inferior, although living in apartheid South Africa, a country ruled by an apartheid regime and determined to make blacks believe they couldn’t achieve.

Anti-apartheid sports youth were involved in sport all over South Africa; playing on under-resourced facilities with inadequate resources, mostly in townships and working class communities of the oppressed.

Theirs was resistance on principle; a refusal to play sports with the establishment, apartheid sport. By participation in sport in their anti-apartheid structures, they refused to acknowledge apartheid. Instead, they gave power to non-racial sport which was a belief that all sportspeople, irrespective of colour, would one day play in a country which didn’t have apartheid legislation.

I’m writing about this remembrance of the anti-apartheid sports youth, juniors and teenagers because they are today’s grown ups, most of them in middle age years of their lives, whom haven’t been honoured and are so easily not remembered for their brave resistance and principled choice against apartheid.

Several young sportspeople also became sports administrators during their youth years in sport. Sometimes, club secretaries were as young as 14 years old, and these youngsters would play sports and assist in club leadership.

The youth of 1976 sacrificed everything for quality education which they deserved. They never set out to start violent protest action or to lose out on school months and years. They began their resistance as learners with a fiery and informed sense of themselves and their oppressed position in apartheid South Africa. They took to the streets to protest so their please for good, quality education could be heard. This generation also played sport, mostly football and athletics. When the protests took root and many learners were injured by police shots and the army’s shooting of unarmed learners, school and community sport couldn’t be played and sports participation was affected as learners challenged apartheid.

Within the forums of anti-apartheid sport, under SACOS especially, no sport was played on the weekend of June 16. This was done to remember and respect the young, brave lives who dared to challenge apartheid. All members and supporters of anti-apartheid sport adhered to this decision of no sport on June 16. This was the inter-connectedness of sports and society as was understood by anti-apartheid sport; the acknowledgement that sport was affected by whatever else went down in society and sport couldn’t think it was removed from the politics of social justice activism.

shaun vester

Shaun Vester

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