Archive | December, 2016

Celebrate 2016 As The Year Of Phenomenal Black Sportswoman Achievement For South Africa By Cheryl Roberts

29 Dec

In reviewing the year I celebrate and emphasise South Africa’s fabulous black sportswomen who claimed global recognition, world triumph and recognition for our country and continent, Africa. I want to center the black woman’s sports prowess and sports achievement in a year of exceptional honour and accomplishment, despite the chains that black sportswomen carry.

This was not only a year of phenomenal sports prowess from South Africa’s sportswomen. It was a year of fabulous sports feats and achievements, especially from elite black sportswomen.

Never before has South Africa, in one year, boasted a black woman Olympic champion, a black woman Paralympic medallist and a black woman world boxing champion. These were the awesome sports feats of Caster Semenya (athletics), Zanele Situ (Paralympic athlete) and Noni Tenge (boxing). Coupled with these world triumphs and accomplishments are those of recognised world class netballer Pumza Maweni.

In a year that saw the spectacular feats of male athlete Wayde van Niekerk and male cricketer Kagiso Rambada, the black woman’s sports achievements are not celebrated as hugely and admirably as befitting the black sportswomen.

The sports achievements of Semenya, Situ, Tenge and Maweni have been written about and broadcasted, but they still don’t dominate the sports headlines in a country where sport profiling is vehemently male-centered, controlled and idolised.

Over the past two decades, I’ve written much about the struggles and hardships of black girls and women in sport in South Africa; how their socio-economic status and black gender and skin impacts on their access to opportunities in sport, from grassroots to elite participation.

In the post-apartheid, democratic South Africa, much more opportunities have been created for black girls and black women to participate in sport. However, most of this participation is not consolidated. Much as the participation avenues are opened up, future development and growth is also blocked, as access to required funding for elite sports preparation is hard to come by and is every black sportswoman’s struggle.

Athletics and netball are the popular sports for black girls and women; this is where they are concentrated. It is these sports that must produce the elite black women sports champions. Undoubtedly, this year was massive achievement for black sportswomen in athletics and netball; especially with 2016 being an Olympic and Paralympic year.

Yet, despite these fantastic world triumphs and recognition, South Africa’s black sportswomen still go unnoticed by those corporate sponsors that associate their companies with sport.

Why has Zanele Situ, Noni Tenge and Pumza Maweni not got corporate sponsorship and funding? Why are these highly achieving, amongst the best in the world black sportswomen, not achieved millionaire status as they deserve from sports earnings like white sportsmen and some black sportsmen? Why has Caster Semenya not being signed up by corporates and businesses after her phenomenal 2016 Olympic achievement and athletics feats?

It’s because they are black sportswomen and black women in sport, and black women are not recognised for their sports prowess and ability but are dissed, ignored and marginalised because they seemingly don’t fit the requirements of largely white owned corporates and advertising!

With 2016 being the year of these outstanding feats and honours, it would be easy to assume that black girls and women are being supported with corporate funding assistance and government backing. This is not so; indeed, the participation paradigm still reveals struggles to go from national level onto international sports domains.

What Semenya, Situ, Tenge and Maweni displayed and continue to do, are their talents and determination to overcome. This could not go unnoticed within sports federations as these women athletes broke the barriers, just with their talent. But what about the talented, yet struggling and battling young black sportswomen, those who are emerging as national youth and junior champions? Is there a secure future for them or will they be lost somewhere in the middle of the sports system?

Black women can achieve in sport, all the way to claiming Olympic and Paralymic gold medals, as Caster Semenya showed in 2016 and Zanele Situ in 2000 at the Sydney Paralympics. However, we want the black woman to be supported in sport, for her existence to be acknowledged and not marginalised.

2016 was a year of awesome sports joy for South Africa and our elite black sportswomen of Semenya, Situ, Tenge and Maweni are right up with their remarkable contribution to sports achievement. It’s because of these fabulous black sportswomen, that my cup ranneth over with black sportswoman joy and pride in 2016. This is my acknowledgement of the fabulous 2016 black sportswoman year.


South Africa’s phenomenal black sportswomen in 2016: Zanele Situ, Caster Semenya, Noni Tenge

Where To For Women’s Football In South Africa? By Cheryl Roberts

21 Dec

Women’s football in South Africa is growing and SAFA must respond with interventions that ensure healthy development of girl’s football advancement and positive performance results for the senior national team. Despite South Africa having participated in the Rio Olympics, 2016 hasn’t yielded the positive results that should have been forthcoming, given the amount of money spent on the national women’s team. The team Banyana Banyana couldn’t even medal at the African women’s Championship in Cameroon after SAFA has spent the most money on girls and women’s football than any other African country.

Amidst the passionate calls and pleas for a professional national league that will allow women footballers to pursue football full-time instead of part-time and recreational football, SAFA has to look at the administration and development of women’s football. No longer can women’s football be treated as a developing age group like boys under 15 and under 17 football.

Women’s football is a gender in sport, not an age group; it demands not only adequate and sufficient resources, support and financial investment but the necessary attention.

SA women’s football has been in world football for over 20 years; it must show much better results. Dominating Southern African women’s football is good but not enough. It’s the African champion status and African top three ranking which is required to demonstrate improvement. And then it’s the world ranking which should see Banyana Banyana in the top 20 in the world.

Firstly, SAFA should appoint a knowledgeable, smart-thinking person who has brain power and ideas to improve women’s football. This person must have no personal interest or attachment to a women’s football club or players because that’s when the favouritism arises and players, selectors and coaches get appointed based on their relationship with who is in charge of the appointments. Why has former international footballer Portia Modise not been given a coaching position with the under 17 girls team. Yes, Portia Modise must get her coaching certificates, but leaving that aside, her experience and influence on girl footballers is greater than paper certificates. South Africa’s girl footballers respect players like Portia Modise and recently retired Banyana internationals, yet SAFA insists on appointing the near-retirement, middle age coaches just because they have been around in the game for long periods. Fresh and new perspectives on turning around women’s football in SA are needed and some of the best inputs can be attained from the young women coaches and administrators of women’s football teams.

I’ve been writing much about the state of women’s football in South Africa, calling out the women’s cabal controlling women’s football and calling out the invisibility of black African women coaches and selectors. Towards the latter part of this year, we saw SAFA announcing black African women coaches and selectors for Banyana Banyana and the under 20 team. However, the most suitable and best coaches are not being appointed.

Banyana Banyana participated in the Rio Olympics, didn’t win a match in the group matches and didn’t proceed to the knockout stage as was expected of them, given that the national team was in training most of the time and played several international friendlies, leading up to the Olympics.

Banyana Banyana should have won the African women’s championship in Cameroon; they have been the best supported African women’s football team over the past few years with their foreign coaches. But Banyana were terribly disappointing, finishing fourth because they were unable to beat three West African opponents. For how long will Banyana Banyana be considered ‘as an improving team’, yet they can’t medal at the continental championships?

What does Banyana need to ensure their first world cup participation will be achieved in 2018? Are SA’s women coaches capable of turning Banyana into a world cup team? The women coaches have the certificates but those coaching certificates don’t mean much if the coaches can’t turn the team into a winning team that scores goals to win matches.

What about girls and young women’s development in football? Over the past few years, SAFA concentrated on supporting Banyana Banyana but neglected development of the under 17 girls team, the nursery of the senior women’s football team.

SA’s u17 girls team qualified for and participated in a girls u17 world cup. What has since happened that the u17 girls team has not qualified again? How is the u17 girls team expected to improve and be match ready when they don’t even play international friendlies? Africa was represented by West African teams, at the u17 girls and u20 women’s world cups, held this year. These young players have gained considerable international and world cup experience, unlike South Africa.

The under 20 team wins the Region 5 Games featuring Southern African women’s football teams. But then again, South Africa is expected to be the best in youth women’s football in Southern Africa because they have a full-time high performance centre where the girl footballers are based.

And what about the coaching positions of the women’s u20 team and Banyana Banyana? U20 coach Sheryl Botes has proven that she can coach a winning team, at least at Southern Africa level. Is it not opportune at this juncture, to give Sheryl Botes the Banyana coaching job, to mandate her to get Banyana to qualify for the 2019 women’s world cup? Botes has been working with the girl footballers and girls’s football teams for very long. She is SA’s qualified and experienced woman football coach. She should be given the Banyana coaching position to see if she can take Banyana to higher levels.

Those involved with women’s football clubs and teams still feel that national player selection is not fair, that players’ talent is not properly scouted and recognised and that player favouritism rules selection. If the team doesn’t deliver and win matches should the coach or players be replaced? It’s the coach who agrees on the squad/team, so the coach must account for her selections! Either the coach is not up to it or the players must be replaced.

Given the performances of the national u17 girls team, under 20 women’s team and Banyana, over the past four years, it’s difficult to know that SAFA has a blueprint in place to develop girls and women’s football in South Africa. Girls and youth football should be developed so the players can be moulded into international players who can score goals and win matches, at senior level.

Most importantly, SAFA must change the administrators and officialdom of women’s football in South Africa. New voices, energy, input, perspectives are needed!



Africa’s Sportswomen Use Their Sports Prowess And Protest On The Frontline Cheryl Roberts

15 Dec

Africa’s sportswomen don’t have a continental organisation and voice speaking out for Africa’s women in sport. However, in significant initiatives on the continent, Africa’s sportswomen, especially the champions are challenging the hurdles, abuse and wrongs they face as women in sport.

Time is not on their side; they’ve waited too long and taken the crumbs and bad deals too often to be silent any longer. Now the sportswomen are using their sports prowess, calling out the way they are dissed, particularly by their national federations.

Africa’s sportswomen and women in sport lack an organised movement and voice speaking for them, calling out the deficiencies, challenging the imbalances and confronting the wrongs they face as women in a sports paradigm, controlled by men. Instead of waiting and waiting for an organised structure in Africa to appear as a voice platform for women in sport, several elite African sportswomen have not only found their voice; they are making it heard. And ensuring that its very loudly heard.

Africa’s sportswomen are using their sports prowess, coupled with their continental titles, world class status and Olympic medals to clap back and call out their mis-treatment in African sport.

Not only making international news but also gaining world wide support are Africa’s continental women’s football champions, Nigeria. Last week, a day after being crowned African women’s football champions in Cameroon, the continent’s phenomenal and title winning team made their intentions known. That was to stage a protest of occupying their hotel space.

Their demand was for their tournament bonuses and fees to be paid immediately. Their reason being they were done in badly before by the Nigerian Football Federation and didn’t want to be victims again of late and non-payments. The team members, including players and their triumphant winning coach are standing together. At first they occupied their hotel rooms, refusing to leave even when an official of NFF visited them to explain about the NFF’s bankrupt state of affairs.

The Nigerian women’s football team stood their ground stating it’s because they are women footballers they are being done in and not given the correct payments on time that is due to them. They also pointed out how the men’s football teams are looked after and paid timeously but the women footballers, including their woman coach, are dismissed and unfairly treated with promises of payments but nothing forthcoming, except delays. This week the national team players took to the streets and held a placard and chanting demonstration outside Nigeria’s parliament.

International media such as BBC Africa have given the women footballers and their protest good coverage and social media has been right by the side of the women footballers calling for the NFF to pay the players and not to mis-treat the continent’s champions.  .

In the absence of a strong movement representing women in sport and acting as the voice for sportswomen, the Nigerian women’s football team have personally undertaken their resistance against shoddy treatment and shown determination to challenge. This is not the first time an African women’s football team has protested about their performance payments. Over a year ago, newly crowned African Games champion, Ghana also embarked on protest, refusing to leave their hotel occupancy until the Ghanaian football federation had paid them the payments they were promised.

Returning from the Rio Olympics in August 2016 South Africa’s silver medallist, Sunette Viljoen immediately used her Olympic medal leverage calling out South Africa’s sports officialdom and officials for the ‘nominal support given to athletes’ whilst athletes barely coped with the funding allotted to them in the build up to Olympic participation. Using the power and voice of social media,  Sunette Viljoen bravely challenged sports officials for claiming the ‘victory of ten Olympic medals’ when, according to Viljoen, athletes still struggled for support and adequate financial assistance.

Also using her personal voice and sports prowess, Olympic champion, Caster Semenya

claps back at those who dare to criticise her body and being. Semenya simply tells the ‘haters’, they got nothing on her. For those who say she ‘talks and walks like a man’, she used the public platform at the SA Sports Awards and told them publicly to ‘tsek’.

The struggles and adversity faced by women in sport, especially black and working class sportswomen, have been noted and documented in some writings and OpEd articles and some sports officials have called out the gender discrimination faced by women, in sport.

What has not taken root is the formation of an organised structure that could be used as the power and voice so much needed to speak and challenge on behalf of women in sport. In South Africa there’s no organised protests against the gender inequalities prevailing in sport. That’s why male officialdom goes on controlling sport and taking decisions for women in sport.

In October this year, the African conference of the International Working Group for women in sport convened in Gaborone in Botswana. National governments and sports federations sent representatives to this gathering. But this is still at the talking stage with no continental structure being formally galvanised into action. This impacts on the organisation, development and advancement of women in sport and how sportswomen are looked after and treated.

Just like the Fallist student movement in South Africa galvanised students to engage, challenge and confront all that was deemed unacceptable to the critically conscious students, wrong and out of order in SA education, so too does women in sport need a movement that will protest, resist and challenge a sports network which easily dismisses women in sport whilst favouring men in sport.

Africa’s sportswomen, albeit in small pockets, have found their voice. These protests must grow bigger, become stronger. Women in sport in all African countries must refuse to accept sports controlling systems that exist to benefit men while women are given some crumbs here and there and expected to participate in sport, while still being in chains.