South Africa’s International Girl Footballer Relies On Food At School Feeding By Cheryl Roberts

24 May

I’ve written about it and mentioned often on social media about the struggles of South Africa’s black and working class girls in sport; their battle against the odds to participate in sport, enjoy sport and achieve. In our South African society of unemployment and inequalities, their struggles are real and exist. In almost all sports in South Africa there will be black and working class girls struggling to get money for transport to training and matches, to get playing shoes and pay registration fees.

Today and for many days, weeks and months, in a working class neighbourhood in Cape Town, a teenage schoolgirl footballer walks out of her humble home, at about 7 in the morning, on her way to school knowing that she will not only learn new information but also get some food to eat. That’s because 16 year old girl footballer Mische Minnies has parents who are both unemployed, no life savings to rely on and no income to buy food and sustain the family daily. They rely on handouts and help received sometimes and randomly from friends and people aware of their family situation.

Mische is at a high school in Mitchells Plain in Cape Town. She plays for a women’s football team where the coach has helped and does sometime help with some food and groceries to ensure the unemployed family gets by. Mische is a talented girl footballer. Last year, she got selected to play for South Africa’s under 17 girls football team and helped the SA u17 team qualify for the girls football world cup. She scored goals for South Africa, with football management seemingly unaware how she struggles to get food daily when she’s not at a national football camp.

For over a year, Mische’s mother and father are just unable to clinch employment that will bring in some money and help them survive in this harsh neo liberal South African society that batters working class people much more than it supports them. The electricity at their rented family home is off because they need money to buy prepaid electricity.

I spoke to Mische’s father today, asked how it was going and he said: ‘I’m out here in the rain in Mitchells Plain, picking up plastic bottles and selling them to try get some money for food today.’ And Mische, I enquired about? He tells me: ‘Mische went to school where she will get some food today because they feed them at school’.

I ask about Mische’s football training and he says: ‘Mische goes to training but I spoke to the club to let her come to training once a week because of transports costs. The club does give Mische some transport money but on the really hard days, Mische tries to help us with some food money and gives us her transport money some days and then she misses training that day.’

Such is her football talent that Mische was selected to attend SAFA’s high performance girl football school in Gauteng where the girl’s living and educational expenses are taken care of by SAFA. ‘Mische’s mother and I were very happy when Mische got selected to go to high performance. It meant she would be looked after nicely because we been struggling for long and Mische been going without food sometimes for long now,’ said Mr Minnies, himself an avid football supporter and volunteer  grassroots coach and administrator.

Six months after being at SAFA’s high performance centre, Mr Minnies got the shock phone call from SAFA’s high performance management that Mische would not be returning to the high performance centre. ‘They told me Mische’s schoolwork wasn’t up to standard and she was coming back to Cape Town. Mische went from Afrikaans instruction at school to English learning. When I saw Mische’s June exams report I saw there was nothing wrong with her report. Then they said Mische wanted to come home. I was so disappointed because now I knew Mische was coming back to struggling for food. But I couldn’t get good enough reasons from there at high performance why they were sending Mische home. Then they selected Mische to play for SA under 17 team.’ explained Mr Minnies.

Recently Mische attended a national training camp for u17 girl footballers. She just got told to be at the airport to take the flight to Johannesburg. No shuttle service for transport to the airport was provided by SAFA to get the girl footballer to the airport. SAFA didn’t even enquire if the girls needed transport to the airport and back home from the airport. ‘Ay, that was a big problem for me. I don’t have a car, had no money and couldn’t get Mische to the airport. I had to beg someone to please take Mische to the airport and beg again to have her brought home from the airport. At least, she ate nicely at the national training camp. But then she came home to no food, again,’ said Mr Minnies.

This unemployed family plight is real, harsh and sad. They not the only unemployed family in Cape Town and South Africa struggling like this. I’ve been calling for a national fund for girls and women to be established; a fund that will help working class girls in sport. Sports federations must be sensitive, aware they are providing sport in a society of inequalities. Paid sports administrators must not assume because they sit in an office and get paid salaries that all is okay with girls playing for national teams, especially when the girls are black and working class.

16 year old Mische Minnie from Mitchells Plain in Cape Town is expected to play a pivotal role for South Africa at the under 17 girls football world cup in Uruguay, later this year. At this moment, Mische is hoping to get some food to eat to get by whist dreaming of her football games. That’s the reality of being a black and working class girl in sport in capitalist South Africa.


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