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.

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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

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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.

 

Phenomenal Wayde Van Niekerk Dazzles Without Chains By Cheryl Roberts

28 Jun

IMG_7285When he runs on the global athletics tracks, its as if Wayde van Niekerk wants to show the world how humans can compete in sport when they have no chains. He runs because he knows the happiness of participating in international sport, the pride of representing a democratic South Africa and knowing your talent’s worth, which Wayde believes is God-given.

Wayde van Niekerk hasn’t said much publicly which reveals his social justice consciousness. That he is socially aware and has a social justice consciousness, there’s no doubt. You can see this in the personal of the athlete that is this global superstar.

Wayde van Niekerk is very much aware of struggle in people’s lives, in society and in sport. He knows about his mother Odessa’s sprint prowess in 1980’s South Africa, being born oppressed and participating in sport for freedom. Wayde concentrates on his today’s and future. But his participation in and achievement on the world athletics stage is always a reminder about the past; the horrendous apartheid past that discriminated against oppressed athletes.

For the oppressed who participated in anti-apartheid sport, Wayde van Niekerk’s spectacular world record breaking feats and global titles help soften the pain and hurt of the lost time in our lives when we sacrificed and fought for freedom in our life time. Wayde demonstrates the abundance of talent out there. He also shows that talent must be developed, nurtured and supported. Today, Wayde runs with pride for South Africa, knowing the past that got him to where he competes internationally, an opportunity denied his champion sprint athlete mother.

Today, he runs with no chains, just the freedom of his talent and desire to discover his worth.  But perhaps he also carries with him that piece thats always remembering his mother for sacrificing her sports life so he could one day represent himself without chains.

Unknowingly, Wayde van Niekerk’s phenomenal athletics achievements have repaid over and over the debt owed to those who unselfishly contributed to freedom from apartheid and opportunities to participate internationally. This is because it’s again demonstrated that discrimination should never be allowed in sport, ever again in South Africa. Talent must be developed and supported.

Wayde van Niekerk wants to be known as a South African athlete.  For those of us still connecting the dots of the past to the present, Wayde represents the anti-apartheid spors struggle being worth it. He will always be the son of an anti-apartheid sport mother.

Woman Footballer Thembi Kgatlana Knows What She Wants From Football By Cheryl Roberts

27 Jun

South Africa’s international woman footballer,Thembi Kgatlana started playing football at age 8 in Mohlakeng on the West Rand.Today, just 21 years old, she’s an international woman footballer for South Africa, a student at University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, and a championship winning footballer. But that’s not all! Thembi Kgatlana is already hosting a community football tournament on the West Rand, sharing her football life with the community that gave her an opportunity to play grassroots football. Thembi Kgatlana knows who she is, values her worth and has her football ambitions nicely mapped out. She knows what she wants and she’s going after it all. This is the Q&A interview I did with one of South Africa’s most talented young women footballers,Thembi Kgatlana.

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Thembi Kgatlana: South African football international

What motivated/inspired you to host a community football tournament?

Where I come from (Mohlakeng,West Rand region) there are plenty of world recognised names when it comes to sports. The likes of Ace Ntsoelengoe, Terra Mathebula (Boxer), Oupa Manyisa, Edward Manqele, Dukuduku Makhanya, Thapelo Morena, but disappointingly we have no soccer tournament or soccer clinics to improve the development and sportsmanship in the region. We have great teams like Mohlakeng four stars and TN Molefe, apart from others which often play tournaments hosted in other regions. I believe hosting this tournament will encourage people of Mohlakeng to take part in sports and continue to produce local and international stars.

What do you hope to achieve from this event?

The tournament is mainly used for encouraging development and it will also be used as a pillar of giving back to the community by giving away sanitary pads, school shoes, and blankets. Anyone can donate those items by contacting us on social media through instagram @kgatlana_tourn and on facebook @Thembi Kgatlana Tournament.

 Do you want to be playing professional women’s football outside of SA?

At the moment playing professional women’s football out of SA is a key priority for me, since we don’t have our own professional league, here in South Africa. So I have definitely considered pursuing my soccer football career outside of South Africa.

 Would you like to be a coach after playing competitive football?

I’m not so sure about me being a coach after my soccer career, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to plough my knowledge of football to the people who will come after me.

What are your football ambitions?

As an international woman footballer, I want to win the African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON), and be part of the AWCON dream team, qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup and be nominated for FIFA or CAF awards.

Which players do you rate for future Banyana selection? And your most admired women footballer and South African woman coach?

My favourite woman footballer is myself and Assisat Oshoala from Nigeria. Most admired South African woman coach is Sheryl Botes.  I would rate Thalea Smidt and Nelly Mamabolo (my team mates at UWC) for future Banyana selection.

 

Do you want to focus on your career in tourism or as a professional footballer?

If I could focus on them both I would preferably do that. However, I’m left with no choice but to put them according to priority. And at the moment my priority is focusing on being a professional footballer and later focusing on tourism, my future career.

 

How did it all begin for you, your football life? How has it progressed?

I started playing soccer when I was 8 years old, in Mohlakeng with a boys team called Napoli FC, the  same team that Oupa Manyisa played for when he was growing up. While playing for Napoli FC, I was forced to leave soccer by my parents because my mom was an athlete growing up and she wanted me to be an athlete as well, considering that I was very energetic and hyper active growing up. Only at the age of 11 years, I started playing for my primary school team (Mohlakano primary school), along with the  boys; up until they made a girls team when I was 14 years old. While playing for my primary school I joined a team called Parma Ladies FC (from Mohlakeng) which played in the Vodacom league back then and later in the Sasol League. Progressing to high school I played for A.B Phokompe senior secondary school (in Mohlakeng) and then joined a team from Swaneville called Lusaka Ladies FC in the Sasol League, for one season. It was in 2011 when I went to Denmark with Parma Ladies FC to participate in the Dana Cup tournament in Hjòrring. From there afterwards I can easily say that I took my talent very seriously. The very same year I joined the U/17 women’s national team of South Africa. The following year 2012, I went to SAFA’s High Performance Centre for further development, experience and gaining knowledge of football through techniques, tactics and physical strength, under the mentorship of coach Sheryl Botes and Shona Hendricks.  While in HPC I played for Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in the Sasol League and was further groomed to be in the U/20 Women’s National team by Sheryl Botes. When I was doing my matric in 2014 at HPC, I was recognised by Vera Pauw, who by then was the newly appointed coach of South Africa’s senior women’s national team (Banyana Banyana). I was called in for trials and since then I have been part of the Banyana Banyana squad. I am currently playing for University of the Western Cape (UWC Ladies Club) which plays in the Western Cape Sasol League, and are current champions of the 2016 Western Cape Sasol League, champions of USSA 2016, Varsity cup runners-up 2016 and Coke Cup champions 2016.