Archive | July, 2018

Why Is South African Women’s Hockey Dissing Black Players? By Cheryl Roberts

31 Jul


Black Player In SA White-Dominated Women’s Hockey Plays World Class Match

South Africa played in the women’s hockey world cup presently underway in the UK with a white-dominated team, a handful of black players, lost 2 out of 3 group stage matches, drew one against world top three Argentina. That’s not all! It was a black woman player in the SA women’s hockey team who was the only player to get a ‘player of the match’ award at the world cup.

This player is goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande who is steadily earning her international caps and recording improving performances. Phumelela, on Saturday, gave a world class match performance for SA against world no.3 Argentina, in the UK hosted world cup. She not only saved, defended and blocked goals from getting in behind the net and past her line, she also protected SA from getting another thrashing in a world cup match. Yes, SA women hockey players did score a few goals at the world cup but those goals were insignificant for match results with SA losing both those matches, resulting in SA failing to get out of the group stages.

That’s not all! The goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande was quickly substituted in the team’s second match against Spain (a match they lost 7-1), without her getting enough game time. The other goalkeeper replacement, who isn’t black, also didn’t do much in terms of quality goal keeping performance.

Now why am I on about mentioning the national women’s hockey team in black and white references? It’s because here was a black player who played a world class match performance, not only for herself, her team and country but for all black women and girl hockey players in SA. She showed that blacks can be world class in women’s hockey and this talent is right here existing in SA.

We must know that women’s hockey in South Africa is the preserve of white, suburban elite players from white, suburban-based, privileged schools and clubs with some black players getting a look in and selection here and there in national and age group teams. Reports and opinions from those involved in hockey in SA will tell you that white cabals control the sport and of course this cabalism impacts provincial and national selections.

Look at SA’s under 18 girls hockey team that participated in the African Youth Games. It was again a white-dominated team! With white girls having majority team preference, they then go on to make the senior provincial and national teams with black players getting left behind and being accorded a few selection places.

South Africa’s post-apartheid women’s hockey national team has always been at least 70% white-dominated, this despite whites being a minority group in SA. Hockey players from working class-township-based schools and clubs don’t event get noticed in SA women’s hockey. The SA women’s hockey team that played in the world cup being held in the UK was again a white-dominated team. In a team of 16 players only four were not white (not non-white, as I never use that derogatory term). But there was a black player who played world class hockey.

And now I ask: For how much longer are those controlling and administering women’s hockey in SA going to insist on believing in hockey talent being available mostly in white, privileged suburban schools and clubs, that black players ‘must still be developed’, that white players mostly have the skills? If this one black player can perform at this level then surely there are more black players? Why are they not being chances and opportunities? Before Phumelela Mbande there was Marcia Marescia Cox whose mother Marion was a top hockey player in anti-apartheid hockey. Marcia was a world class player who captained SA.

This challenge of ‘slow transformation in SA women’s hockey’ was pointed out last year by now retired SA player Sanani Mangisa who noted how it’s all about one black player out, one black player in. It’s never about more than just a handful of black players. In fact, a handful of black players never make the SA women’s hockey team. It’s always just, 2, 3, 4 black players but it’s always 10, 11, 12, 13 white players.

This marginalisation of black players in women’s hockey is what happened in men’s rugby and men’s cricket in post-apartheid South Africa. It was always thru the white gaze and white preferential selection ‘based on merit’ that white players came to be the national cricket and rugby teams. These sports were pressurised, called out about their marginalisation of black players and white supremacist attitudes. Women’s sports like hockey got left untouched because the focus was on men in sport.

SA women’s hockey wants more funding and sponsorship to develop girls and women’s hockey, to play more international matches. Who is going to benefit from increased funds? White girls and women hockey players? Why must a black player always have to prove herself very quickly whilst white women get lots of opportunities in provincial and national teams?

There you have it SA women’s hockey: A young black player has shown you that blacks do have talent and potential to not only play international hockey but to perform and win ‘player of the match’ at the world cup against top world ranked teams. Now SA women’s hockey must shake off and eliminate their thinking that white players must dominate hockey teams for the team to perform and play quality hockey.

South African International Netballer Phumza Maweni Blossoms Late And Fast By Cheryl Roberts

20 Jul

At a time and age when international and elite sportspeople are either considering retirement or retiring and when sportswomen want to have a baby, that’s when hood netballer and mother Phumza Maweni discovered she was being acknowledged as having the talent to play international netball.

Now a world class netballer, having played in several pro leagues in the UK, it’s hard to believe that Phumza Maweni only started playing senior international netball, just four years ago. It was at aged 29 and mother of a 6 year old son, just after playing one season for the Western Province A team, which she made by chance when the A team’s goal keeper got injured, that Phumza found herself in the South African netball training squad, in the SA Fast Five team and then the SA netball Test team.

Phumza Maweni grew up in the Transkei where she first played netball in the village. She arrived in Cape Town as a young woman and joined a local hood team in Khayalitsha. South African netball was unaware of this young talented netballer because she didn’t play in the provincial leagues and didn’t get provincial selection. ‘We were just playing netball in Khayalitsha amongst ourselves, enjoying community netball. Then I joined another club that was playing provincial league in Belville and I started to get noticed,’ says Phumza. ‘The first year I was asked to attend trials and I thought “what trials is this” and I didn’t go.’

This selection all happened very fast for the already twenty-something Phumza Maweni who didn’t play age group netball as a schoolgirl. Progressing swiftly from the development team to the A team, she made one Western Province team after the other and within two years of playing league netball, she was noticed and selected for the SA netball team.

Four years later, at 33 years old, Phumza Maweni has played for South Africa in Fast Five international competitions, Test matches, world championship and Commonwealth Games. Within her first year of playing for South Africa, she captured a pro contract and went to play for Loughborough in the UK. Her 2018 UK club Severn acknowledge her netball prowess and supporters of the club voted Phumza Maweni ‘supporters player of the season’. Now, at the top of her game, Phumza is a vital component of the SA netball team.

This player’s netball rise to the top from grassroots netball shows the hidden talent in South Africa, especially in towns, rural areas and townships communities. It also shows how sports selection for talent should be cast all over the country, in different leagues and playing structures because the gems are out there waiting to be discovered.

I asked Phumza Maweni some questions about her netball life and she gave me these answers…..


Q: How did you start playing netball?

Phumza Maweni: I was watching one of my friends playing a friendly game at school in Mceula village in Cala. I asked if she could take me with the next day when they go to training. While I was watching them train, the teacher who was their coach approached me and asked me to join the team. I never looked back since then. At the time, netball was a woman only sport and I was delighted to take part in the sport. It was fun.

Q: Who has influenced your netball development from grassroots to international netball?

Phumza Maweni: Firstly, I motivate myself to be humble as a person and encourage myself. I like to involve myself with positive people. I allowed everyone around me to feel free to criticise my game to allow me to grow as best a player, I could. My dad played a big role in my netball career, always supporting me and helped me to take care of my son so that I could concentrate on the sport. I acknowledged that God gave me talent. I developed that talent into skill and use that skill to reach international level.

How old are you?

Phumza Maweni: I am turning 34 in September

Q: When did you start playing provincial and international netball?

Phumza Maweni: I started play serious netball at the age of 18 years. I joined a local club in Khayalitsha called Vultures netball, where my netball life began. The team joined the league in Bellville and that same year I got selected for the Western Province team. That was in 2012.  And in 2013-2014 I was promoted to WP B team which represented the province in Rustenburg.  After playing with the WP B team in the Boland tournament, the A team goal keeper got injured and I was called to fill her shoes for the same tournament. Our WP A team won gold, that year. Then I moved to WP A team. I got selected onto the SA Proteas Squad that same year in 2014.

Q: What positions do you play?

Phumza Maweni: Positions I playing are GK/GD

Q: Who is your competitive\toughest opponent?

Phumza Maweni: My toughest opponent international is Haniele Fowler. She’s such an amazing athlete; has a huge strong body for netball. In SA I would say Lenize Potgieter. She is very smart and quick to take a shot.

Q: How do you like playing pro netball in the UK?

Phumza Maweni: It’s so competitive. And I get to play amongst the best netballers in the world. I like to take a challenge to learn different styles of play, and different cultures, environment atmosphere to get the best experience.

Q: How much longer would you still like to play international netball?

Phumza Maweni: I can’t say much for now. I am still thinking about it. You will be surprised. But I think it’s time to build a relationship with my son. I cannot say exactly when I will take my career as a journey, with no destination. I cannot predict the future. I am happy to take part in the sport of netball right now.

Q: Do you have corporate/personal sponsor?

Phumza Maweni: No. I don’t have personal sponsor.Q: What is your training schedule for you pro club in the UK?

Phumza Maweni:  A typical training week in the UK: we train almost every day 6 days per week, twice a day. We do 2 days with the team, 2 days gym, and 2 days individual training.

Q: What fixtures are coming up for you this year?

Phumza Maweni: I still have some big events coming ahead with the quad series, Diamond Challenge and a lot of training camps preparing for World Cup  2019.

Q: What would you still like to achieve in  netball? Would you like to coach after your playing days?

Phumza Maweni: I  would like to win a medal/trophy or defeat one of the big teams like Australia or New Zealand, with the Proteas.  About coaching: Yes, I would like to do development coaching, especially the young netballers in rural areas, to motivate them to continue playing sport.

Q: Your fav food?

Phumza Maweni: I like African food/meat is my favorite.

Music, I love God /I like Gospel music.

Q: What improvements would you like to see in SA netball to improve the game?

NSA is trying by all means to bring netball to the people. I think NSA should use the Proteas (the national team) to drive development in all provinces. To bring more youngsters to play with international players and share the experience while we are still active.

Q: Your highlights and achievements in netball?

Phumza Maweni: Representing team SA in Commonwealth Games 2018, playing in the league in the UK, and awarded as PP of the season 2018 for Severn Stars.


Raven Klaasen Played Anti-Apartheid Tennis To Get Freedom To Play At Wimbledon By Cheryl Roberts

14 Jul


As Raven Klaasen Plays A Wimbledon Final We Recall Our Anti-Apartheid Sports Struggle

It was an ecstatic week of international sport. Just when we had recovered from unhappiness of not having Bafana Bafana play in the men’s football world cup, a whirlwind emotional state of sports happiness gripped us as South Africans took to the courts at Wimbledon.

In an historical and defining moment for democratic, post-apartheid South Africa and our South African sports narrative, South Africa’s Raven Klaasen has become the first black tennis player to reach a Wimbledon final; this being done after growing up playing tennis in an anti-apartheid sports family and environment.

For this now grown up anti-apartheid boy tennis player, who had his tennis nurtured in anti-apartheid tennis structures, an anti-apartheid sports environment and anti-apartheid sports family, this sports journey is borne out of an horrendous apartheid system: being born a skin colour that would make you oppressed in apartheid South Africa and take you along the unfolding years of democratic, post-apartheid south African society.

Undoubtedly, opportunities to participate in sport were opened up and became more accessible during democratic South Africa era. Many young black sportspeople have not only been getting onto international sports stages but achieving phenomenally on the international sports stages.

When we celebrate Raven Klaasen becoming the first black South African to reach a Wimbledon final, we do so knowing the struggle of black people to play international sport and represent a democratic country. We applaud, scream with joy and pride and write about this monumental moment because we know how black girls, women, men and boy South Africans have played tennis, still play tennis and have passion for the game. We also know about the talent that surfaced out of black tennis playing communities during apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa and we know about the struggles to get to play professional tennis. That’s why we recall and remember, never forgetting or allowing erasure and marginalisation of our anti-apartheid sports struggle, of black people’s struggles to survive and make at top and elite sports levels and achieve internationally.

Now 35 years old, Raven Klaasen is one of the world’s top men’s doubles players. Raven comes from a tennis playing family. His grandfather played tennis and both his mother Yvonne Klaasen and father Japie Klaasen played competitive tennis. But their tennis environment was not just another tennis club and sports structure.

It was a tennis club, rooted in the community and a national tennis federation that opposed apartheid in society and in sport. This tennis structure was affiliated to the anti-apartheid sports resistance, non-racial South African Council on Sport (SACOS), the organisation that abided by the international moratorium on playing international sport in apartheid South Africa and playing international sport with apartheid South Africa.

When we played sport under SACOS, you played anti-apartheid sport; you didn’t collaborate with apartheid sport. Our sports leaders were principled. They weren’t involved in sport for money, payments and bonuses but for the struggle against apartheid and to achieve a democratic society.

This is the tennis environment that Raven Klaasen comes out of; the tennis environment that his parents chose to play in. It was about the pleasure of playing community sport, the struggle to cope with under-resourced, non-sponsored facilities and resources and the humanity of fighting injustices of apartheid. It was about sacrificing international sport for that day of freedom to dawn. Raven’s parents knew when they introduced their child to tennis, they did so not knowing if and when he would have the chance to play international sport. They knew freedom was coming, but didn’t know how long it would take. They didn’t leave apartheid SA for another country. The tennis-playing Klaasen parents didn’t join apartheid’s multi-national sports structures. They stayed grounded in their anti-apartheid sports environment, despite the few resources and minimal playing facilities.

And then freedom arrived in 1994 and with it came ‘sports unity’ and the playing under one national structure for all sports. But even in post-apartheid tennis, black children and youth playing tennis struggled to break down the  system of inherited privilege. Tennis coaching and academies were exclusive and expensive with only the privileged being able to afford them. Some promising and talented black children went to the national tennis academy in Tshwane, like Raven Klaasen. Some got to play some international tennis here and there as juniors. But they just couldn’t afford to get onto the international circuit fulltime and as professionals and fell out of the system.

Raven Klaasen persevered through the years, also thru the injuries that kept him out of professional action. But he hung in there, never giving up or saying ‘I just can’t make it.’ He played both singles and doubles as a professional tennis player. Today, Raven Klaasen, at 35 years old is playing in his first Wimbledon final and is the first black South African to be there.

Today, and every other day we will recall the struggle against apartheid sport, the struggle to play sport in an apartheid free South Africa, the struggle for freedom and the people who sacrificed their sports for freedom to be attained. We celebrate and acknowledge with pride and admiration, the Klaasen family and Raven Klaasen, the boy tennis player from an anti-apartheid sports environment and anti-apartheid tennis playing family who has become the first black South African toplay in a Wimbledon final.raven

Woman Rugby Player Babalwa Latsha Lights Up South Africa’s Rugby Fields By Cheryl Roberts

3 Jul

4ADEAFA5-F127-4088-84E2-DFD3723B29ACIts been an amazing 40 months in the life of young woman rugby player Babalwa Latsha, who never touched a rugby ball until she got to tertiary studies. Until the day before leaving for the USSA (student rugby tournament), Babalwa had never played rugby. It was a day before the USSA tournament in September 2014 that Babalwa first touched a
rugby ball.
And that’s how it all kicked off for this amazing young woman and her rugby talent. We are speaking about University of the Western Cape final year law student Babalwa Latsha.
After the student tournament, Babalwa fell in love with rugby. She went on to get selected in 2015, for Western Province senior women’s rugby team, without having played youth girls rugby. Later in the 2017 season, Babalwa had to take over the WP captaincy after the captain got injured. And then in the final minutes of the 2017 WP v Border SA
interprovincial final in East London, Babalwa had captained WP to a dramatic SA championship win in 5 years. Then came the call up to the
South African emerging women’s squad that toured the UK, late 2017.
And in early 2018, came the selection to the Springbok women’s squad,
followed by selection to USSA 7’s women’s rugby squad to play in the world university rugby championship, and a call-up to SA women’s rugby 7’s squad. Now Babalwa awaits to hear if she will make the final 12 of
the SA 7’s team to play in the World cup series in the USA in July.

I asked Babalwa Latsha several questions about rugby life. She gave me
the answers……..

Q: How did you start playing rugby?
I was asked to join the UWC 7s team to the USSA tournament in Pretoria in September of 2014, having never touched a rugby ball in my life before. It was the day before we left to tournament. I gave it a go, made the SA students team and never looked back.

Q: How do you combine academic work and playing rugby?
My studies are quite time-consuming and demanding but I do try my best to prioritise and manage time effectively

Q: Say what? You started playing rugby only at UWC? Not as a girl
rugby player for WP u18?
I had been playing football and participated in athletics field events before then. I’ve never played junior rugby.

Q: So when did you get selected for Western province women’s 15 team?
I got selected at WP in 2015. I actually started at loosehead prop. I currently play tighthead prop.

Q: Who has influenced your rugby?
My idol is men’s Springbok Tendai Beast Mtawarira. I really admire
him, his work ethic and style of play. My coaches have played a major role in my rugby; people such as Lwazi Mzozoyana, Blachang Fredericks,
Labeeb Levy and Tembani Ngubelanga have played influential roles in my

Q: Would you like to get a pro rugby contract; play in the UK,
Australia or New Zealand?
I certainly would. It would open up so much more doors for me, also for other South African women rugby players and even those who will come after me.

Q: Do you prefer 7’s rugby or fifteen?
I do enjoy them both but 15’s is my niche.

Q: Tell us about your training schedule
At the moment (at 7s) its 2 field sessions a day: 1 morning and
another afternoon and 1 gym session, everyday.

Q: What improvements would you like to see for women’s rugby in SA?
I would like to see women’s rugby equated to that of males. There is a
huge gap between women’s rugby and our male counterparts. I’d like to see women’s rugby being more lucrative and commercialised. Women should be able to make a good living from playing rugby, have franchises and corporates involved in the sport. I would love for provincial women’s rugby to have much more exposure to the greater population by way of televising games and more.

Q: Can Western Province win the SA women’s interprovincial title
again, this year?
We are certainly working extremely hard in preparation for our IPL campaign. A lot of work is being put in behind the scenes and I’m confident we are making strides towards the ultimate 2018 goal; that being successfully defending our interprovincial championship title.

Q: What music do you like?
I love listening to old school RnB and Motown. I do like gospel music as well.

Q: And food tastes?
I love umphokoqo, steak and veggies are one of my favourites as well.

Q: What do you do when you not playing rugby and busy with academics?
I work part-time at the UWC gym as gym instructor and I do sports
commentary and analysis from time to time at a community radio station based in Khayelitsha.

Q: Who funds your studies?
I am on a bursary from NSF (national skills fund). I would like to practise in Cape Town as a lawyer after my studies but if an
opportunity presents itself elsewhere, I will definitely explore.

Q: Where did you go to school?
I attended EC Primary in Grassy Park and Constantia Primary in my younger years. I went on to Heathfield High in the Southern Suburbs but went on to matriculate at Makaula Senior Secondary School in Mount
Frere, Eastern Cape.

Q: And grow up?
I grew up in Grassy Park with my grandparents, moved to Westlake in Tokai to live with my parents. I spent my later teens in Khayelitsha.

Q: So you really into rugby, ain’t you?
I love it. It’s brought me lots of pleasure and happiness.