Why Wasn’t Applause For Fabulous Black Sportswomen Achievements Thunderous? By Cheryl Roberts

14 Sep

It all happened in about one week. That’s when Black sportswomen slayed fabulously on the international sports stages around the world. And, amongst the slayers were South Africa’s black sportswomen, too.

Black women achieving in sport didn’t just happen recently. Despite their struggles, adversities and chains associated with being black, they’ve been slaying for some time and for some decades. But its been the one black sportswoman here and another later, somewhere there.

Amongst the amazing black sportswomen feats in one incredible week of sports triumph, there was Sloan Stephens’ magnificent US Open tennis championship victory, after being ranked somewhere in the 900’s through being out of competitive play because of injury. There was also Kenyan athlete Joyciline Jepkosgei who broke the world 10k record at an IAAF Gold Label Road Race in Prague.

South Africa’s black sportswomen, too were on the achieving page and stage. There was the awesome boxing achievements of South Africa’s black sportswomen. World champion Noni Tenge successfully defended her WBF title and Unathi Myekeni successfully claimed a world title. World class netballer Bongi Msomi, captain of the SA netball team led the national team to a famous historical win over England.

Get this! These women are black. They have not had easy pathways to international sports glory. They have emerged from grassroots sport to international triumphs.

So we know the black sportswomen performed and achieved fabulously. But why wasn’t the applause for these incredible achievements, especially of the South African black sportswomen, so loud that it would have been heard in both southern and northern hemispheres?

Yes, there were congratulations and acknowledgements of Noni Tenge, Unathi Myekeni and Bongi Msomi’s triumphs. But it was white sportsman and professional tennis player Kevin Anderson who seemingly got much more attention and publicity than the three black sportswomen all together.

What is it with South Africa that we just can’t celebrate with thunderous and deafening applause our black sportswomen? But then again, because of scant and now-and-then media publicity of black women in sport, much of SA don’t know about our black women world boxing champions nor about our Paralympic champion, Zanele Situ. And it’s really the larger netball community that knows about world class players Bongi Msomi and Pumza Maweni.

These black sportswomen, despite their amazing sports achievements like world, Olympic, Paralympic titles and world class status, just don’t attract corporate attention or association. But sportsmen who haven’t achieved as enormously and fabulously as the black sportsmen get corporate business and sponsorship contracts. How do you call this?

What the black women boxers Noni Tenge and Unathi Myekeni achieved in one night was phenomenal for country, women and blackness. As people got to know about their world titles, especially through social media, their sports prowess got some acknowledgement. But it wasn’t loud enough. It wasn’t as deafening as it should have been. Two world boxing titles by women were achieved by South Africans, in a boxing championship in South Africa, in one night. Yet, these world champion black women boxers were not celebrated as their global sports achievements deserved. And the sponsors and corporates still haven’t contacted them.

It’s a fact that media, publicity and sponsorship in sport in South Africa heavily favours the sportsmen and not the women in sport. Commercial media has, over the past decade given a little more space to sportswomen and men in sport. Sports fans and sports consumers often say they didn’t know that a ‘black woman boxing champion existed’, or ‘women played cricket and rugby’, or when national and international fixtures featuring women were taking place. Hence, sportswomen and their achievements/defeats/triumphs are lesser known


Noni Tenge: World women’s boxing champion



Pumza Maweni: South African international netballer

and not as loudly celebrated as should be.

Celebration of sports achievements is very gendered with sportsmen getting loud and thunderous applause whilst sportswomen, especially black achieving sportswomen, get some acknowledgement in the moment of the sports triumph like Olympic and world champion Caster Semenya, and then seemingly forgotten about. Black sportswomen rarely get corporate sponsors or business/sports contracts, sometimes they get some commercial media, and in between some award recognition. This is how a patriarchal, sexist, male-dominated society impacts on sports applause and celebration. This is how male hegemony, male control supervises and takes care of male domination. Black sportswomen, despite their impressive and incredible sports feats, are dissed and largely unacknowledged.


How Disgusting! SAFA’s #SasolLeague Women’s Football Teams haven’t Received Their 2017 Grants By Cheryl Roberts

6 Sep


Women’s football in South Africa is struggling for recognition and support, especially the formation of a national professional league for women footballers. As if that’s not enough, the little support the women’s game gets from a corporate sponsor, hasn’t this year found it’s way to the clubs/teams that keep women’s football going.

Get this! Teams in regions playing Sasol League competitions haven’t received their 2017 grants allocated to them from the Sasol sponsorship. This, despite the Sasol League already having entered it’s second round of competition.

I wa shocked to hear last weekend, when I was on the football field how teams in the Western Cape hadn’t received their grants and their kit. I then stated an opinion about this on social media and was subsequently informed how the situation is the same in KZN and Eastern Cape. Other teams from around South Africa informd me confidentially how they, too hadn’t gotten their money.

The question is: Who is responsible for the grants not being disbursed to the Sasol League teams? Has the sponsor Sasol paid the sponsorship to SAFA national? Has SAFA national received the sponsorship but not yet distributed the funds/grants?

We’ve just come through the month of August, known as women’s month in South Africa where women are the focus and thought about. In sport, too women in sport are mentioned as being taken care of and promised ‘bigger and better’ in SA sport.

But hold on! Why is women’s football being treated like this?

Women’s football teams throughout the country, playing in the Sasol Leagues are mostly administered by and kept afloat by a few volunteer officials and coaches. These volunteers use their personal time and money, in most scenarios, to keep girls, young women and women in the game. Now, just about 5 months after playing league matches in a structured competition organised by SAFA national and administered by SAFA’s regional structures, it has become public that the Sasol League women’s football teams are running on empty and at personal cost to the volunteer officials and coaches.

This is not fair. It’s an injustice to women’s football! There is a national corporate sponsorship associated with women’s football competition in SA. Where is the sponsorship money and kit?

This year is especially big for women’s football. SA is preparing girls and teenagers for world cup qualifying tournaments. It’s the clubs at regional level that must develop these players and surface the talent. How can the volunteers do this alone with no grants/funding coming their way?

Where is the sponsorship money? I ask again: Has SAFA national received the sponsorship from Sasol? As its already 5 months into Sasol League competition, surely Sasol can’t be holding back with the sponsorship? Surely Sasol doesn’t want their brand tarnished by them not paying the Sasol League grants? Why is SAFA not disbursing the grants; why is SAFA doing this to the women’s football teams?

When team representatives attend Sasol League meetings in their regions/provinces and enquire about their grants, they are told to keep quiet and not ask questions because women’s football can’t get sponsors and only Sasol is keen to sponsor women’s football. Yes, that’s true about there being no sponsors, except Sasol, for women’s football, at this juncture. But enquiring about your grant doesn’t mean you are ungrateful. You just want to know how much longer must you go on using personal money to keep women’s football going and growing when there’s a corporate sponsor associated with the competition that you are making ahppen!

I’m writing this because I hear and feel the frustration of those volunteers especially who help develop women’s football in SA. I’m writing and shouting out because this is injustice being done to women’s football in SA. I’m writing this because clubs are scared to speak out, terrified their talented players will be victimised by non-selection for national squads. I’m writing this and calling out SAFA national or Sasol (whomever is to blame), because there’s no organised voice for women’s football in SA; anyone speaking out against gender injustices in SAFA fear they could be disciplined.

No one wants to fight with SAFA. We all want women’s football to be supported and developed. So, where are the grants that should have been paid to Sasol League teams for the 2017 season? Who is hoding the money?


I Never Want To Stop Celebrating South Africa’s Black Sportswomen Caster Semenya And Zanele Situ By Cheryl Roberts

9 Aug

Get this! We must not be shy to throw applause and indulge in celebration of the global sports feats and triumphs of South Africa’s black sportswomen, Caster Semenya and Zanele Situ. We are living in the time of  amazing world-class sports achievements by these black women; world accomplishments not easily attainable but indeed, achieved by South Africa’s Semenya and Situ.

It’s not like South Africa has a conveyor belt of black sports girl athletics talent. Yes, we have black girls participating in sport. However, they are largely invisible and missing when it comes to international representation. How much longer will we wait before we see again the era of spectacular athleticism of Semenya and Situ exhibited by an emerging generation of black girl athletes? Given that no world-class junior black girl athletics talent is being surfaced in South Africa, on the same level of that of Situ and Semenya, we must unapologetically revel in the triumphs and achievements of Situ and Semenya. This is their moment. This is our moment of appreciation and celebration, We might never again see, in our lifetime, such amazing sports feats being achieved by black South African sportswomen.

In a South African society of abundant sports talent and plentiful sports wealth located largely in elite male-dominated sports, black women in South African sport struggle, to not only become world-class, but also just to get out of the starting blocks en route to international participation.

In a South African sports paradigm saturated with male sports prowess, achieving black sportswomen at international level are few, but are remarkably out there. That they exist and have achieved on the international sports stage, is not only damn good, but splendid, given the struggling, adverse conditions most black girls and women have to contend with as they participate in sport.

When you’re a black woman in sport, negotiating your way onto international playing fields is most often littered with setbacks, disappointments, funding rejections, injury-challenges; this, coupled with the determination to triumph. It’s a harsh environment for women in sport who struggle much more than men, sometimes negotiating seemingly impossible pathways to higher levels of achievement. For black women, the struggle is much harder than for white women.

And, amidst the struggles pertaining to being black and non-able bodied, have emerged some amazing world-class black sportswomen from South African soil. Two of these sportswomen are athletes Caster Semenya and Zanele Situ; Semenya able bodied and Situ non-able bodied.

IMG_8303Black Sportswomen Caster Semenya And Zanele Situ Hold It  Down For Black Women

These black sportswomen have not only surfaced their talent. They have achieved spectacularly in world sport. Zanele Situ became Paralympic javelin champion in 2000 and Caster Semenya became Olympic champion in 2016. These are no easy-to-achieve feats! That Olympic and Paralympic titles have been won by these black South African women, is astounding.

These sports achievements are also much appreciated and respected when one recognises how harsh society is on and to black women. But these global sports triumphs have been attained by Semenya and Situ who demonstrate that black girls can develop into world-class and internationally achieving sportswomen.

I’ve noted already both Semenya and Situ being Olympic and Paralympic champions. In 2017, before Semenya even defends her world 800m title, both Situ and Semenya have won bronze medals at world events. Situ won bronze at the world para athletics and Semenya, a few days ago won bronze in the 1500m at the world athletics championship. These global feats are acknowledged and applauded in South Africa and by most South Africans. However, despite the spectacular, historical sports achievements by these black women, sponsorship/product endorsement still doesn’t come to them in recognition and praise of their sports successes.

For those of us who understand the interconnectedness of black and woman in a patriarchal, sexist, racist, misogynist, heterosexual-dominated society, we emphasise these sports achievements are claimed and owned by BLACK women in sport. We know and experience what it is to be black woman in a society most times intent at keeping you down, instead of supporting you.

When they participate in competition, Semenya and Situ carry the hopes of their blackness, gender, bodies for themselves and all who know the importance of having black sportswomen achievers. I can’t stop at celebrating Semenya and Situ; actually, I don’t want to stop overflowing the respect and applause. You see, in a South Africa where men get most sports media, money, recognition and applause, the sports feats of black women like Semenya and Situ give us much celebration alternatives, instead of having to applaud only success of sportsmen.

I want to enjoy and celebrate every moment of their fabulous sports feats. I want to feel with them when their world-class results are missing, when body and hustle are playing up, when the struggle feels harder than before. And when Semenya and Situ and other black sportswomen triumph internationally, I never want to stop my applause and celebration. Because I know that I’m experiencing amazing sports feats of black sportswomen.

South Africa’s Athletes/Players Forced By Officialdom To Be Quiet; Have No Voice! By Cheryl Roberts

27 Jul

Sport in South Africa is autocratic with democratic processes of interaction and discussion between officials and athletes non-existent. Sports federations are not only administered, but viciously controlled, by officialdom. Athletes and players are forced to be quiet, have no voice, are never asked their opinion, have no democratic discussions and are especially treated as non-thinking participants in sport.

Across the board, in all sports federations, officials are intolerant of athletes voices. It’s not that officialdom doesn’t like athletes/players to announce their opinion. It’s about sports officials being the oligarchical bosses, demanding athletes not to have a voice. Sports officials are especially scared to have athletes/players speaking out and challenging officialdom.

With most sports federations, before an athlete gives an interview they must ‘get permission’ and this permission is usually from the federation’s gatekeeper in the form of the communications/media person. These gatekeepers want to actually be present when the athlete is being interviewed. They will tell you it’s to guard the athlete from being misquoted or something like that. But it’s really to ensure the athlete doesn’t ‘speak out of line’, according to the sports federation.

Particularly in the era of social media, athletes/players are ‘monitored’ and anything remarked about or stated on social media that the federation official/s don’t approve of, is immediately and aggressively taken up with the athlete.

But what are officials in sport afraid of? Why are they representing sports officialdom as a dictatorship and dictated entity? Why are they so intent on controlling the minds, opinion and thinking of athletes/players and participants in organised sport?

It’s not only the officials that athletes are scared of; they also can’t question or challenge the appointed coach for fear of being dropped, not selected and sidelined.

It’s not just about silencing the voices of athletes. It’s also about ensuring the athletes have no critical consciousness. No political and social justice talk is allow; not even encouraged or supported! Can you believe this?

Athletes, players and their coaches are expected to train and participate in sport according to how officialdom sets the rules and regulations. No discussion or opinion is entertained or entered into. And the other gatekeepers are the employees in sports federations, most of whom administer sport from offices as if they own the sport, together with the officials.

Across all sports and in all sports, the athletes are trapped. They have voices that are silenced! Should they dare to speak out and give opinions, they are summoned for disciplinary action by insecure officials who rule the sport as if they own the sport.

Sometimes it gets too much and the athletes anger starts to boil. If it’s team action, then players stand together on a stronger foundation. If it’s an individual athlete speaking out, rarely do others support the athletes action, with athletes opting to view from the sidelines.

Competitive sport is fiercely competitive with selection being highly challenged and contested. With no athlete wanting to jeopardise their selection chances, they keep their voice quiet, speaking out only to close friends and contacts about their unhappiness, challenges and grievances.

The players and athletes get frustrated. They want to ask questions. They want answers. They have ideas about how sport can better deliver for athletes participation. Coaches dominate their thinking and behaviour. Officials silence them. There are no processes for athletes to speak out and challenge. They get told to take up challenges and grievances through their clubs and provincial structures. However, it’s in these very sports confines that athletes are silenced.

When representing provinces and country, athletes are briefed what to say and what not to say. Views about politics and social justice awareness are outlawed. The athletes/players are expected to concentrate on performance only, as if they exist outside the realm of society and it’s interconnectedness.

If athletes and players knew their power they would stand together, across all sports and boycott officialdom. Then what will officialdom have to administer and to whom would they dictate? But then again, athletes can’t perform without the officials who organise sport for them to participate in and compete.

A thorough assessment of the state of athlete/official relationship will reveal a state of being bullied. But really, the control of athletes voices is not only unhealthy for sport, it’s also unbearable! Athletes must be allowed to speak without fear of being victimised, disciplined, suspended or expelled. Dictators, autocratic and oligarchical officials in sport are harming sport.

8cheryl roberts  in the rain forest in ghana

Cheryl Roberts (writer of the blog)


Why Are South Africa’s Black Sports Girls Not Emerging As World Class? By Cheryl Roberts

18 Jul

With phenomenal sports success being attained by South Africa’s junior and senior athletes, SA’s sport enthusiasts are in the throes of sports euphoria and sports happiness. Achievements on the global sports stages are applauded with pride and respect. Now that’s all very nice and patriotic.
However, we must not forget celebration of sports feats can also cloud our lens, blur our vision. When we look at the sports feats we must also ask ‘who are we celebrating’? South Africans, yes. But an honest appraisal and reflection will show how it’s the junior boys (of all colours) and senior men who are achieving awesome titles and medals, with some sportswomen and sports girls also getting their continental and global accolades.
But where are the black sports girls? Why are they also not achieving world class sports feats. It’s not just the white seniors and white boys and girls. The black boys and black senior male athletes are participating internationally in sport and achieving amazing results.
But the black girls and black women are not achieving world junior titles and world class performances. Look at South Africa’s recent performance in the world under 18 athletics championship in Nairobi. SA topped the medals table because it got more gold medals than other countries. But Kenya finished tops with 15 medals compared to SA’s eleven. SA had 4 black boy world champions and 1 white girl champion. Kenya delivered girls and boys amongst their medallists. If SA’s boys can become youth world champions, win global medals and produce world class performances, then why are we not seeing such scintillating performances from black girls?
To start with, black girls are participating in sport. They are developing from grassroots sport to become provincial champions and top ranked national players. But it’s the platform from national to international stage which is not proving supportive for them. National teams like athletics, swimming, hockey, badminton, netball have just a few black girls with much more white girls and boys. If the black girls can’t get selected for international representation, how is SA going to have representative national senior teams?
Whilst we celebrate sports achievements, it’s very easy to forget about the missing black girls. In the moments of triumph and subsequent national applause and pride we forget to ask the critical questions that are impacting on black girls performance in international sport. It’s not that black girls can’t achieve internationally. SA’s world class and world champion sportswomen such as Caster Semenya (athletics), Zanele Situ (para athlete), Noni Tenge (boxing), Bongiwe Msomi and Phumla Maweni (both netball) exist. This demonstrates that black women can achieve global sports feats and honours.
South Africa’s sports administration is moving towards selection of teams and athletes that will produce world class feats and win continental and global titles. With this selection policy being favoured, we must ask what support is being given to black girls to attain high continental and world ranking and deliver world class performances.
After world class athletes like Semenya, Tenge, Situ, Msomi and Maweni retire, where is the next generation coming from because, at this juncture, they are not surfacing from the junior ranks.
Whilst being thrilled about SA’s amazing international sports feats, we must also be worried and concerned about the slow, almost lack of development of black sports girls from national to international representation. If black boys are achieving fabulously on the world sports terrain, then why are the black girls missing? African countries like Kenya have shown in athletics that both their girls and boy athletes can perform admirably in world sport.
With applause centered on sports feats and achievements, we must be mindful and ask the critical questions about the missing black sports girls. It’s easy to lose ourselves in pride and applause without questioning the gender imbalance. National sports federations must be questioned and asked about the development and advancement of talented sports girls and sports boys, especially talented black sports girls. We want to know where and how are they being protected and supported in the sports system, why are they falling through the system.
If sport produces largely boy talent and champions without surfacing girl talent, then sport must be accused of especially neglecting black sports girls. Then we must respond, call them to attention, force them to arrest this imbalance and ask why the neglect of black sports girls.
It’s apparent that SA’s black sports girls are missing at international level. Seemingly, the black sports girls are being neglected, being allowed to fall through the cracks without being caught and supported with assistance to further develop. We won’t rest until black sports girls are visible on international sports stages with achievements and feats like the sports boy. South African Sports Woman . Published by Cheryl Roberts. Published in May 2017. Published in Cape Town in South Africa - Copy


Why Are South Africa’s Black Sports Girls Not Emerging As World Class? By Cheryl Roberts

18 Jul

South African Sports Woman . Published by Cheryl Roberts. Published in May 2017. Published in Cape Town in South Africa - Copy

Why Is Sports Injustice Done To South Africa’s Girl Footballers? By Cheryl Roberts

14 Jul

I’m aware that selections in sport vary according to people’s opinions, especially for all of us who think we know who should be selected. Most times, coaches and selectors get some selections right, according to sports fans. Most times, they also just don’t get it. SAFA recently held trials in some football regions; not all areas were covered. These trials were supposedly to get selections done for SA u17 girls and u20 women’s African world cup qualifiers.

I often challenge and ask critical questions about SAFA’s organisation and administration of girls and women’s football. I do this because of the interest in developing women’s football and for the larger picture; that being to get winning teams representing South Africa in women’s football. The talent in girls and women’s football is there in South Africa. But how this talent is managed and advanced by SAFA, is something else. After calling out SAFA and its management of women’s football, there are admittedly some improvements.

So SAFA decided to host trials around South Africa. The national programme of dates, venues and co-ordinators got drawn up by SAFA. All that is okay. SAFA has given enough notice to its football affiliates. But why so late with the trials when you knew you had Africa’s world cup qualifiers coming up in September this year? The July holidays should have been used to get national training underway for the national teams, playing some friendly internationals, not for national selection camps that don’t even involve all the regions because all the trials were not completed. How do you host national selection camps without having done trials throughout the country?

SAFA looking at girls talent throughout SAFA’s regions must be commended. Before, SAFA’s selections were done straight out of the high performance players which didn’t have all of the best talented girl footballers there. But what do 1-2 hour trials prove when the girl and young women footballers have been playing league since over 3 months ago throughout South Africa? Shouldn’t there be selectors and ‘talent scouts’ watching the girl and young women footballers playing league matches every week, thereafter advising national coaches and selectors? Shouldn’t national youth footballers be liasing with coaches whose players are showing their football talent and prowess?

Yes, we want talent across the country to be looked at, not only taken from one region like Gauteng; this  because girl footballers exist all over the country. We want the best for South African women’s football. We don’t want girls and women’s football to be dominated by a cabal of coaches, selctors and management who concentrate on Gauteng and a few clubs there.

The Cruel Injustice Done To Sisanda Vukapi Of Cape Town Roses And Faadieyah Simons Of Manenberg Ladies

 And how does SAFA’s national u20 women selectors and whoever else is involved, explain that the precocious talents of one 17 girl footballer, Sisanda Vukapi is totally ignored? This 17 year girl football from Cape Town Roses is one of the leading all-time goalscorers for Cape Town Roses and in the Western Cape Sasol League, this season. She has been in the Western Cape’s SA inter-provincial championship winning under 19 teams. She has scored goals at SA tournaments. Sisanda has played in several national play-offs, won the national play-off with Cape Town Roses and won several league titles for and with Cape Town Roses. Explain to us why this talent is being ignored for national selection. Tell us why she can’t even make a national u20 selection camp when she is rocking the Western Cape Sasol League, this season. What more must this talented girl footballer do?IMG_0729

Two girl footballers, 17 year old Sisanda Vukapi and 18 year old Faadieyah Simons from Manenberg have been dealt a cruel injustice with the latest SAFA under 20 women’s football call-ups to a national training camp. Sisanda, of Cape Town Roses is one of the leading goalscorers of the Western Cape Sasol League, this season. Faadieyah is a leading player for Manenberg Ladies. Both teenage girls played for the SA u19 champions, Western Cape. Sisanda and Faadieyah both scored the winning goals in the 2016 final. They went to the 1 hour trials in Cape Town, showed their talent. How could they be excluded from a national training camp when they have shown their talent at national and provincial youth level? How many more goals must Sisanda of Cape Town Roses score? What more must Faadieyah Simons prove? Sisanda has kept Cape Town Roses at the top of the league this year with her goal scoring prowess. Why are Sisanda and Faadieyah being ignored?. Which youth girl footballers from around South Africa are so much better than these girl footballers when they have both scored at SA championships? Yes, I know not all girl footballers can get selected! But Sisanda and Faadieyah have proved their worth, damnit!

But it’s not only about Sisanda and Faadieyah; it’s also about what other talent is going unoticed throughout South Afrca. That’s why I’m asking why national youth selectors and coaches don’t communicate with coaches who are producing the girl footballers and developing South Africa’s women’s football future.

Given how South Africa didn’t qualify for the last editions of u17 and u20 women’s football world cups, how do we believe in SAFA’s selection and training of the national teams? I’m asking these questions, challenging some decisions, all with positive intent and in the interest of getting the best deal for women’s football in South Africa.

I’ve spoken to many, many coaches around South Africa and all of them say that No One from SAFA’s women’s selection and coaches panels contacts them about how the players are developing and shaping up. NO One! Then they hear about trials and national selection and they must get players to attend.

I’m asking these questions because coaches and the players are scared and afraid to speak out publicly in case they become victims and get ignored for selection. I’m asking these questions because it’s become unbearable to see how some talent is ignored. I’m asking these questions because we want women’s football in South Africa to win across Africa and in the world. The talented girl footballers exist! SAFA must get their national training camps and selections to recognise this talent.