Dear White People In South African Sport – From Cheryl Roberts (Sport And Resistance Lifetime Change Agent/Activist)

15 Jan

You have been so accustomed to privilege, power, oppressing blacks, believing in the myth of  your white superiority and myth of black inferiority that you believe this white privilege is bestowed upon you forever in South African sport; just because you have a white skin.

This superior, yet vastly outdated mindset is that white supremacist attitude, behavior and thinking is inherited and carried down through generations. It precludes you from living humanely and knowing that all people, irrespective of colour, are human and that no one skin colour is above or supreme to another.

I start by telling you this because I want to go on and tell you how you have brought this false sense of white supreme being into South African sport and into the democratic life of post-apartheid South Africa; out of the horrendous apartheid era that you so happily and without criticism, supported and benefitted from.

Despite our telling you that blacks have been playing organised sport for over a century and more in South Africa, you refuse to take this into that head of yours, as authentic information and lived experiences of black people and their sports narratives.

When we remind you of the organisation, advancement and talent of oppressed blacks in the apartheid decades, despite the horrors and atrocities that the apartheid regime subjected oppressed black people, you refuse to acknowledge the oppressed sports narratives, as told to you by those who know them and participated in oppressed sport.

You go on and on about how you were denied chances to play international sport when apartheid South Africa was being boycotted internationally, yet you refuse to admit how apartheid South Africa made, supported, assisted and advanced white people, the minority population group whilst harshly and inhumanely oppressing and exploiting the black majority grouping of people, who are amongst South Africa’s indigenous people.

So, you as white people don’t like to be reminded of the apartheid times when you reigned supreme, fasely believed in your white supremacy and when you were outright racists.

We came into the democratic period of South Africa’s life and you insisted on believing in white supremacy, particularly in sports such as cricket, rugby, hockey, swimming, golf, netball and all the other sports that are white-dominated, supported and controlled.

Abundant talent has always been there, amonst black sports people; not only in the post-apartheid years, but years and decades before.

World class talents existed when blacks were being viciously oppressed. But these talents were not only stifled and unsupported by corporate and white sponsors/businesses who exploited blacks, they were used as change agents to move out of the horrific apartheid system into a democratic period.

I have told you this before in my many writings and talks that black and oppressed people chose to play anti-apartheid sport, chose not to support apartheid sport and agitated and fought for a freedom from apartheid.

We sacrificed our sports lives and sports talent so that all of South Africa and all South Africans, that includes you, too could be given a fair and honest chance to represent South Africa legitimately and as a democratic country, not as a pariagh and boycotted apartheid country. We did not fight for freedom so that only white people could benefit from democratic South Africa! We fought and challenged for all South Africa’s people.

Why do you assume that white privilege must prevail in sports such as cricket, netball, rugby, hockey, swimming and many other sports? Where do you get that false sense of belief that white people are the best sports administrators and officials? And, most importantly, when are you going to discard that mentality which informs you incorrectly and disingenuously that blacks must be perpetually ‘developed’ in sport, stay in development programmes until they retire from competitive sport, while you flourish from international selection and representation?

Why do you never or rarely see or acknowledge the talent and sports prowess of blacks? Why have there been massive dismissals of black talent in rugby, cricket, netball, swimming and hockey? Whenever blacks are selected into national teams and for international representation, they are viewed through your white supremacist lens as being ‘token and quota’ players; this in your white privileged mind meaning ‘players of inferior ability and quality to white players’.

By assuming your white supreme being as being the best in South African sport, you are de-mobilising your ability to understand that white supremacy must be smashed, that it should not exist and that it’s not going to flourish in sport in South Africa.

This doesn’t mean that whites won’t be selected to provincial and national individual seletion and in sports teams! What you must understand and comprehend is that talent exists amongst and within all communities and colours of people. Just because most whites go to better and richer resourced schools and play at elite and well-maintained sports clubs, does not give you a complimentary ticket to claim white supreme representation in sport. So when you say that you are being done in because of ‘the quota policy’, effectively you are admitting to your white supremacist thinking which believes your whiteness is superior and blacks are inferior.

C’mon now. How long you gonna take to eliminate from yourself and your being this attitude and thinking? How much longer you gonna go on with a false sense of your existence? I tell you, you are messing up your mental health. You get all agitated and angry when black selection is dominant and being noticed. You don’t acknowledge this as black talent. Why?

Throughout the past 25 years, we have called for the recognition of black talent, emphasising it existed and should not be easily discarded or ignored. We also didn’t dismiss white sports talent; if whites have the talent, they must be selected.

If blacks dominate the provincial and national netball, football, hockey, rugby and cricket teams it’s because blacks are the majority population and they are showing the most talent; this ahead of white talent.

Get this! Those whites who still hold onto supremacist attitiudes and thinking can go on being disgruntled and talking amongst their white selves. Black sports alent exists and must not be ignored or discarded. White privilege in South African sport must be smashed out of the sports paradigm! Whites either accept this or pack up and go try play outside South Africa.

8cheryl roberts  in the rain forest in ghana

Cheryl Roberts (writer of the letter ‘Dear White people In South African sport’

White Cricketers Fearful Of Black Cricket Talent And Selection In South Africa By Cheryl Roberts

6 Jan

White Cricketers Leaving South Africa Because White Privilege In South African  Cricket Has Been De-Mobilised

When the blacks in cricket (all those not white skinned or white) were inhumanely and unjustly ignored, marginalised, almost ostracised and used largely as development fodder in South Africa’s post-apartheid era cricket, white people never spoke out for their representation and selection. When black cricketers got selected and given an ‘opportunity’ to play provincial and national selection, whites doubted the black player’s ability to play internationally. Now that the black cricketers, after much protest and anger and vehement calls for black recognition in SA cricket, have not only broken the selection barriers, but are performing world class and match winning feats, white cricketers are feeling un


SA International Cricketer Temba Bavuma (photo by Cheryl Roberts)

easy, almost getting terrified.

This uneasiness has nothing to do with their acknowledgement of black player talent and cricket prowess; its the truth getting told to themselves that BLACK  CRICKETERS  CAN  PLAY  AND PERFORM  INTERNATIONALLY.

Granted, elite sports persons treat professional sport as a job that gives them an income and so they move around and take on increased and lucrative playing contracts. So when South African internationals move, because of what is a perceived as better income, they are behaving as opportunistic and mercenary sports persons. In the era of professional, capitalist society, that is their right.

It has now again occurred with two of South Africa’s white cricketers, Kyle Abbott and Riley Roussouw who have opted for contracts in another country but which also prohibits them from representing their country whilst under this playing contract.

South Africa’s elite rugby players, most of them Springboks have over the years been choosing the option of playing outside South Africa because they earn much more money and also, which they don’t admit, because they fear black player selection. Abbott and Roussouw re not the first white cricketers; there have been several before them. These white people in sport use their ancestral lineage of countries outside South Africa to get the sports recognition they assume they deserve ahead of black sports persons.Then they speak out, like England’s adopted Kevin Petersen and chant against blacks playing international cricket as if cricket is white people’s sole preserve.

Let’s unpack this with honesty and integrity. Now that black cricketers in both coaching and player spheres are being justly recognised and selected, representatives of the white privilege brigade in SA cricket are beginning to feel uncomfortable; this is something coming on from a long time ago.

Exemplifying racism and racial privilege, they have screamed and shouted out about what they termed the ‘political selection’ through the quota policy, of black cricketers as if cricket in South Africa is the preserve and ownership of their white privilege.

Over 20 years ago, coming out of their indoctrinated and privileged apartheid lives that subordinated and oppressed black people, the white cricket group struggled to believe in black cricket talent. For white people, blacks in cricket meant they had to be in perpetual development programmes and events, shown as fodder for white corporates to sponsor and keep alive white cricket, whilst throwing some money at development blacks in cricket.

Now that the black cricketers have not only taken their opportunities and are proving they can play and perform, several of them with admiable feats ad achievements, the white cricketers are beginning to feel they are being dealt unfairly for black numbers and selection.

No! White cricketers in SA are not being treated unjustly or unfairly. They are selected to play according to their worth and prowess.And they must perform; failure to do so leads to selection of inform provincial and emerging players. And the players who are claiming selection places are the black players from across South Africa.

So how does the white cricket group interpret this? They don’t rightfully and honestly acknowledge the worth of black cricket talent in SA; they go on rants that throw de-humanising arrows at black cricketers as being mere quota players and political selections. Although, screaming and shouting down black cricketers while protecting their inherited and perceived white privilege, this white cricket group has no protest power.

This is because white privilege in SA cricket selection has been arrested, convicted and de-mobilised. Years ago the quota policy of certain numbers of black players forced selection to recognise black cricket talent. Black cricketers came through provincial cricket and into the national team, albeit in small numbers. One black player was supposed to appease protest calls for black cricket recognition and advancement. White players, several of them mediocre and favoured, were still protected and given much more space, encouragement and opportunities to develop internationally while black cricketers were too quickly discarded as not being internationally ready.

When white cricketers look around and see the increasing rate of selection of black players at youth and senior level, they see their white privilege being attacked and eliminated, not by quota policies but world class black talent. Now their white privilege mindset, so ingrained in their privileged lives, begins to tell them they are being discarded and ignored for black political sports representation in a country that is black majority governed. Now they are shifting their presence elsewhere, out of the country where they developed their cricket.

Yes, it’s the player’s prerogative; there’s no restrictions on movement from one country or club to another. Elite and professionals do this. When players do this, some acknowledge it’s for security and their future incomes. But never has a white player honestly and correctly said that the increasing black cricket talent is rightfully being acknowledged and he’s scared of not being adequate anough to get international selection.

This won’t be the last of white cricketers taking up lucrative contracts outside SA. There’ll be much more in the years to come. At the same time, we should see much more black players playing international cricket at youth and senior levels. But Cricket South Africa’s officialdom must not give in to white privilege fears and aspirations and white corporates who want to control and manipulate white power of cricket in SA. White privilege in SA cricket has been effectively de-mobilised and it must never be allowed root to flourish and grow.


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.



Respect Caster Semenya’s Disruption Of Conservative Sport In South Africa By Cheryl Roberts

28 Nov

Caster Semenya slayed in a bowtie as she attended her honouring as South Africa’s ‘Sportswoman of The Year’  at the 2016 SA sport Awards in Bloemfontein. She walked confidently and proudly, as the black woman in love that she is with herself and her black woman partner.

This is a black woman’s fierceness and power at the top of her game. This is a champion proud black sportswoman determined to be in the game on her terms; her blackness, sexuality, her body image and being, her rural identity and her phenomenal sports prowess.

I love how Caster Semenya disrupts and cracks open South Africa’s conservative, hetero-normative, male-dominated sports network. She has waited for no one to define or design her being or set the rules of how ‘she should act and behave’.

This is the human she wants to be and is going to be. There’s no hiding who she is, so she chooses to dress in androgynous style, never hiding her woman partner, never screaming out how gay and queer she is and, with all of this, participates in world athletics in devastating winning style.        

Undoubtedly not only South Africa’s queer black woman sports champion, Caster Semenya is also a significant disruptor of conservative sport. Her athletics prowess says it all, but it’s her ownership of the being that is Caster Semenya which makes her the champion black woman that she has become.

Caster Semenya has transitioned from champion teenage black sports girls to fierce, self-owned, self styled, confident, happy and proud black sportswoman champion.

And, in getting to this stage of her life, she has fabulously empowered millions of black girls and women to believe and know that they, too can achieve, despite the harshness of a life where white supremacy thrives and male hegemony reigns.

Most importantly, she has delivered the potent message that we have to stand by who we are, who we w ant to be and how we want to be in a male-hegemonic, heterosexual-dominated society that will attempt all it can to break down black women who dare to be otherwise and to own their beings.      

In an era in South African sport where black women are struggling and battling challenges, and adversities, known only to and faced by black women because they are black, Caster Semenya keeps the spotlight firmly on black women by saying ‘we have the sports talent, we are existing and we can achieve’.

Given the negatives written and said about her body, the ridicule thrown at her being and the male-dominated, heterosexual sports world she competes in, Olympic champion Caster Semenya has refused to be any other than the human she wants to be. There’s no ways she’s fitting into anyone’s shoes as defined or suggested by those who control and dominate.

The Caster Semenya terrain is about being black and queer with prolific athletics talent.

And this terrain is powerful, not only for Caster Semenya the person, but also for black women in sport who find they are not being supported and encouraged enough in the SA sports pyramid. Black men get themselves sorted out with positions and lucrative payments for services in sport but black women are almost invisible in national leadership, captaincy positions and national team membership.

Caster Semenya’s athletics feats remind us that black sports girls and sportswomen are talented  and must be supported; not forgotten about and left to help themselves

Caster Semenya has it written all over her; her individual being displaying it over and over about being the black woman you choose to be, on your terms. She has single-handedly daringly laid the groundwork for black women in sport to never stop believing in themselves and to consistently challenge those who are forever strangling black women in sport and keeping black women down.

There’ll come a time when Caster Semenya won’t be the champion, when the media spotlight will move away from her, when the adoring fans will forget to acknowledge her sports feats and achievements. However, we must never allow Caster Semenya’s sole disruption of the conservative heterosexual, male-controlled sports paradigm to be forgotten, ignored or buried. The Caster Semenya monuments must be built now with our fierce resistance to all those in power and with power who maintain black women’s subordination in the sports network.

Get this! Caster Semenya is the black woman’s power we been waiting for in sport. Caster Semenya is the disruptor of conservative sport.



1caster semenya

South Africa’s Olympic Champion, Caster Semenya (photograph by Cheryl Roberts)

Manenberg’s Women Footballers Survive Hood Life To Win Cape Town Football Title By Cheryl Roberts

16 Nov

There were many days when they couldn’t turn up for football training in their gang-rivalry hood of Manenberg, but Manenberg Ladies football team stood united, found the gaps to train and stayed in the game they love.

Playing in the regional women’s football league of the SAFA Cape Town region, Manenberg ladies football team are the 2016 league champions; this being the first time in their five year existence they have won the league.

It hasn’t been an easy and comfortable journey for the young women and girl footballers who make up this champion team belonging to the club founded by volunteer community sports officials Dawood Salie and Celeste van der Vent.

Over the past two years especially, the team had their training and league preparations interrupted and delayed because of rival gang violence’s stranglehold on Manenberg. Parents wouldn’t allow their children to walk to the football training ground as bullets and guns dominated the street.

One of the players even became a victim of gun shots. Some players got caught in the gun shot battles as they walked their way to the football field. While other regional league teams and their opponents got going with pre-season training, Manenberg Ladies football team players prayed for the gun and gang battles to stop so they could go to football training.

Living in council housing in the disadvantaged, unemployed, under-resourced working class and gang fighting neighbourhood of Manenberg on the Cape Flats, the club was founded and came into existence to give the ‘girls an opportunity to play sport’, says official Dawood Salie.

‘At first, we didn’t play to win titles, just to survive. We had to get football boots for the players and shin guards, pay their medical examination costs and transport to games. With most of our players coming out of unemployed and struggling families, sport was a luxury they couldn’t afford. But as a community club, we made it a reality.’

Manenber Ladies football team is a team of working class girl and young women footballers. Some of the girl players are at school in Manenberg, some are young mothers, some are unemployed, some are working. They are united by their lives in Manenberg and their love for football.

It’s through football, particularly on the football field, that the girl and women footballers find their expression as sportswomen because it’s out on the field where they discover their creativity and potential. When they leave the football field, they know their worth as girls and women in sport.

They can’t afford the latest and most expensive football boots, or branded sports clothing, but they play as proud working class women in sport because no one can take away their confidence found through football.

Several of the team players have already represented SAFA Cape Town in provincial events and SAFA Western Cape in inter-provincial competitions. They have also clinched national awards such as ‘top goal-scorer’. However, it’s disappointing to note how Manenberg’s players are overlooked for national youth selection when the players have proven their football prowess in national competition.

Club officials, Dawood, Celeste and aunty Rose (who coaches the under 13 team) have used their personal money and time to develop and grow the club. When the player’s need boots and shin guards, they bought this from their personal money, expressing the epitome of community and grassroots sport.

With so much negatives characterizing the community and its families, the primary objective was to provide as safe space for the girls and young women to play sport and enjoy being in sport.

‘Winning the league and becoming champions was just a dream,’ says Dawood Salie. “When we formed the club, we had nothing, just the players who wanted to play. But we kept building the team, supporting the players, ensuring they played football. And the players responded by coming to training and wining matches. Our winning the league this year is good for the team’s confidence. At least, the players from Manenberg know they can win at sport’.

The young mothers are encouraged to stay in the game, not to be out of sport because they have children. They come to the field with their child or children. Supporters and others connected with the team look after the children while the mothers are playing. ‘It’s like a family affair. We support each other and are there to help each other. When we win, it’s a team effort,’ says Dawood Salie.

Off the football field, the players are with their families, at work or school. They like music and being active on social media and with their mobile phones. Football is their love; it’s the sport they’ve come to not only love, but to also know themselves better and what they can achieve.img_0827