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?

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

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