Archive | November, 2016

Respect Caster Semenya’s Disruption Of Conservative Sport In South Africa By Cheryl Roberts

28 Nov

Caster Semenya slayed in a bowtie as she attended her honouring as South Africa’s ‘Sportswoman of The Year’  at the 2016 SA sport Awards in Bloemfontein. She walked confidently and proudly, as the black woman in love that she is with herself and her black woman partner.

This is a black woman’s fierceness and power at the top of her game. This is a champion proud black sportswoman determined to be in the game on her terms; her blackness, sexuality, her body image and being, her rural identity and her phenomenal sports prowess.

I love how Caster Semenya disrupts and cracks open South Africa’s conservative, hetero-normative, male-dominated sports network. She has waited for no one to define or design her being or set the rules of how ‘she should act and behave’.

This is the human she wants to be and is going to be. There’s no hiding who she is, so she chooses to dress in androgynous style, never hiding her woman partner, never screaming out how gay and queer she is and, with all of this, participates in world athletics in devastating winning style.        

Undoubtedly not only South Africa’s queer black woman sports champion, Caster Semenya is also a significant disruptor of conservative sport. Her athletics prowess says it all, but it’s her ownership of the being that is Caster Semenya which makes her the champion black woman that she has become.

Caster Semenya has transitioned from champion teenage black sports girls to fierce, self-owned, self styled, confident, happy and proud black sportswoman champion.

And, in getting to this stage of her life, she has fabulously empowered millions of black girls and women to believe and know that they, too can achieve, despite the harshness of a life where white supremacy thrives and male hegemony reigns.

Most importantly, she has delivered the potent message that we have to stand by who we are, who we w ant to be and how we want to be in a male-hegemonic, heterosexual-dominated society that will attempt all it can to break down black women who dare to be otherwise and to own their beings.      

In an era in South African sport where black women are struggling and battling challenges, and adversities, known only to and faced by black women because they are black, Caster Semenya keeps the spotlight firmly on black women by saying ‘we have the sports talent, we are existing and we can achieve’.

Given the negatives written and said about her body, the ridicule thrown at her being and the male-dominated, heterosexual sports world she competes in, Olympic champion Caster Semenya has refused to be any other than the human she wants to be. There’s no ways she’s fitting into anyone’s shoes as defined or suggested by those who control and dominate.

The Caster Semenya terrain is about being black and queer with prolific athletics talent.

And this terrain is powerful, not only for Caster Semenya the person, but also for black women in sport who find they are not being supported and encouraged enough in the SA sports pyramid. Black men get themselves sorted out with positions and lucrative payments for services in sport but black women are almost invisible in national leadership, captaincy positions and national team membership.

Caster Semenya’s athletics feats remind us that black sports girls and sportswomen are talented  and must be supported; not forgotten about and left to help themselves

Caster Semenya has it written all over her; her individual being displaying it over and over about being the black woman you choose to be, on your terms. She has single-handedly daringly laid the groundwork for black women in sport to never stop believing in themselves and to consistently challenge those who are forever strangling black women in sport and keeping black women down.

There’ll come a time when Caster Semenya won’t be the champion, when the media spotlight will move away from her, when the adoring fans will forget to acknowledge her sports feats and achievements. However, we must never allow Caster Semenya’s sole disruption of the conservative heterosexual, male-controlled sports paradigm to be forgotten, ignored or buried. The Caster Semenya monuments must be built now with our fierce resistance to all those in power and with power who maintain black women’s subordination in the sports network.

Get this! Caster Semenya is the black woman’s power we been waiting for in sport. Caster Semenya is the disruptor of conservative sport.



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South Africa’s Olympic Champion, Caster Semenya (photograph by Cheryl Roberts)

Manenberg’s Women Footballers Survive Hood Life To Win Cape Town Football Title By Cheryl Roberts

16 Nov

There were many days when they couldn’t turn up for football training in their gang-rivalry hood of Manenberg, but Manenberg Ladies football team stood united, found the gaps to train and stayed in the game they love.

Playing in the regional women’s football league of the SAFA Cape Town region, Manenberg ladies football team are the 2016 league champions; this being the first time in their five year existence they have won the league.

It hasn’t been an easy and comfortable journey for the young women and girl footballers who make up this champion team belonging to the club founded by volunteer community sports officials Dawood Salie and Celeste van der Vent.

Over the past two years especially, the team had their training and league preparations interrupted and delayed because of rival gang violence’s stranglehold on Manenberg. Parents wouldn’t allow their children to walk to the football training ground as bullets and guns dominated the street.

One of the players even became a victim of gun shots. Some players got caught in the gun shot battles as they walked their way to the football field. While other regional league teams and their opponents got going with pre-season training, Manenberg Ladies football team players prayed for the gun and gang battles to stop so they could go to football training.

Living in council housing in the disadvantaged, unemployed, under-resourced working class and gang fighting neighbourhood of Manenberg on the Cape Flats, the club was founded and came into existence to give the ‘girls an opportunity to play sport’, says official Dawood Salie.

‘At first, we didn’t play to win titles, just to survive. We had to get football boots for the players and shin guards, pay their medical examination costs and transport to games. With most of our players coming out of unemployed and struggling families, sport was a luxury they couldn’t afford. But as a community club, we made it a reality.’

Manenber Ladies football team is a team of working class girl and young women footballers. Some of the girl players are at school in Manenberg, some are young mothers, some are unemployed, some are working. They are united by their lives in Manenberg and their love for football.

It’s through football, particularly on the football field, that the girl and women footballers find their expression as sportswomen because it’s out on the field where they discover their creativity and potential. When they leave the football field, they know their worth as girls and women in sport.

They can’t afford the latest and most expensive football boots, or branded sports clothing, but they play as proud working class women in sport because no one can take away their confidence found through football.

Several of the team players have already represented SAFA Cape Town in provincial events and SAFA Western Cape in inter-provincial competitions. They have also clinched national awards such as ‘top goal-scorer’. However, it’s disappointing to note how Manenberg’s players are overlooked for national youth selection when the players have proven their football prowess in national competition.

Club officials, Dawood, Celeste and aunty Rose (who coaches the under 13 team) have used their personal money and time to develop and grow the club. When the player’s need boots and shin guards, they bought this from their personal money, expressing the epitome of community and grassroots sport.

With so much negatives characterizing the community and its families, the primary objective was to provide as safe space for the girls and young women to play sport and enjoy being in sport.

‘Winning the league and becoming champions was just a dream,’ says Dawood Salie. “When we formed the club, we had nothing, just the players who wanted to play. But we kept building the team, supporting the players, ensuring they played football. And the players responded by coming to training and wining matches. Our winning the league this year is good for the team’s confidence. At least, the players from Manenberg know they can win at sport’.

The young mothers are encouraged to stay in the game, not to be out of sport because they have children. They come to the field with their child or children. Supporters and others connected with the team look after the children while the mothers are playing. ‘It’s like a family affair. We support each other and are there to help each other. When we win, it’s a team effort,’ says Dawood Salie.

Off the football field, the players are with their families, at work or school. They like music and being active on social media and with their mobile phones. Football is their love; it’s the sport they’ve come to not only love, but to also know themselves better and what they can achieve.img_0827

Are South Africa’s Black Sportswomen Self-Destructive? By Cheryl Roberts

10 Nov

While South Africa’s black sportswomen are achieving amazing international feats, also emerging are the negative behavior patterns amongst South Africa’s elite black sportswomen. Such is the negative behavior that some sportswomen have either lost their contract deals, been suspended, or left out of national team selection.

It’s the elite black sportswomen who are getting suspended from international representation and who have had their contracts suspended.

Against the odds, still competing in chains, South Africa’s sportswomen are emerging and achieving from club level and on international sports stages. It’s not only white sportswomen gaining accolades and international titles, it’s the black sportswomen, too who are showing their sports prowess and achieving.

Why is this happening to black sportswomen who’ve had to struggle much harder than white women in sport to firstly enjoy participation in sport and secondly to be supported in their sports development.

The formal announcement by Cricket South Africa of the suspension from international representation of two black women cricketers, has left us asking what is going down with our sportswomen.

Respecting the ‘confidential nature of the matter’, CSA named the two players as Trisha Chetty and Shabnim Ismail but didn’t give any mention about the disruptive behavior of the women cricketers which led to their international suspension. But if you ask around and talk to those involved with the national women’s cricket team, you do discover the negative behaviour exhibited by the women cricketers.

It appears that drinking alcohol is having a negative impact on our international sportswomen and youth internationals. Recently, SAFA undertook an internal investigation into their high performance training centre in Pretoria where several under 20 women and girl teenage footballers are based. One of the findings is how out of control is the behaviour of some of the youth internationals and how drinking excessive amounts of alcohol had crept into the girl footballers consumption habits.

Excessive alcohol drinking also featured in the lives of some Banyana Banyana players; from as far back as ten years ago. Today, several of that era Banyana Banyana players are internationally retired, unemployed and dependent on alcohol to get thru life.

A few years ago, a Banyana Banyana player was also being accused of ‘abusive partner behaviour’. This impacted on the player’s international call-ups when she would miss national training camp.

A world class black woman athlete, based in the Western Cape also had her provincial athletics contract terminated because of negatives in her lifestyle which impacted on her athletics contract. The woman athlete was abruptly left without a monthly income and subsidised accommodation.

Are black sportswomen too easily receiving too much handouts and incentives without having to work hard for their recognition? And then again are black sportswomen being unfairly and harshly judged when they are deemed as ‘stepping out of line’?

The national suspension of the two black women cricketers has arrived as ‘shocking news’. After all, how can you get suspended for off-field activities which had nothing to do with on-the-field performance and behavior?

This is not the first national suspension that CSA has delivered regarding national women cricketers. About a year ago several nationally contracted women cricketers were suspended from national training camp because of ‘alcohol drinking’. The two women cricketers suspended now until end January 2017 were also in that group suspended. So they have seemingly done ‘wrong again.’

An international black woman footballer was left out of South Africa’s AWC’s team because she couldn’t make the friendly internationals against Egypt and Zimbabwe due to contractual work commitments, despite the player not receiving an international schedule from SAFA when she had requested such information. I’m not sure if the player is the one to blame when she did ask about her international commitments.

Negative player behavior has not been sanctioned as acceptable in sport the world over. South African sports federations and professional clubs particularly, also take action against players when they indulge in behavior that is deemed ‘incorrect, out of control and negative.’

In the South African sports network, negative sports lives have been associated with ‘out of order’ sportsmen. SA’s elite sportswomen were too focused on their struggles to get financial and media support to even think of stepping out of line. But now, the reality is surfacing and becoming public that South Africa’s sportswomen, as they get more support and opportunities, are also getting suspended for behavior not in keeping with their contracts and selections.

But it’s not the white sportswomen who are throwing away the chances given to them; the white sportswoman is seemingly diligent, hard –working and appreciative of the opportunity given to them.

But why is the elite black sportswoman throwing it away in reckless moments of lifestyle choices like alcohol drinking, abusive interactions and disruptive choices in their lives when they know they pathway of an international sportswoman is about training, hard work, setting goals and achieving objectives?


SA women cricketers, Trisha Chetty and Shabnim Ismail (photograph by Cheryl Roberts)