Pressing Issues: There should be no discrimination in sport

2014-11-17 11:00

South Africa will host the inaugural Global Watch: Say No To Racism conference at Emperors Palace, east of Joburg, on Thursday and Friday.

President Jacob Zuma will deliver the keynote address at this ground-breaking event.

Among the speakers will be former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe, Sheikh Faisal bin Mubarak Al Thani of Qatar, and Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who will deliver his address via a video recording.

In attendance will be heavyweights from the local and global sporting fraternity such as SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam; the International Olympic Committee’s Sam Ramsamy; former Springbok captain Francois Pienaar; Ivorian Jacques Anouma, who is also a Fifa executive member; Liverpool legend John Barnes; and the National Basketball Association’s Amadou Gallo Fall.

A few of the topics up for discussion will be the challenges of racism-discrimination globally, the defining issues of racism-discrimination in sport in the 21st century, as well as the formulation of a global charter for the elimination of racism and discrimination in sport.

While there are preparations for this event – led by business tycoon Tokyo Sexwale, the former Gauteng premier and former minister of human settlements – two unrelated things have disturbed me greatly.

They involve stuff that landed in my inbox and on my desk this week.

One was an invitation to an event by the J9 Foundation that was “formed by rugby legend Joost van der Westhuizen in aid of those suffering from the same form of [motor neuron disease]”.

This is a great humanitarian initiative that needs to be applauded. But I was a bit disturbed by the list of “South African sporting icons” who support this initiative.

This is how the invitation was worded:

“You are cordially invited to join us at the launch of a proudly South African Public Service Announcement (PSA). The PSA forms part of the #whynotme campaign – featuring South African icons such as Gary Player, Flip van der Merwe, Joel Stransky, Penny Heyns, Francois Pienaar, Louis Oosthuizen, Joost van der Westhuizen, LJ van Zyl, Natalie du Toit and

Paul Harris.”

I was astounded that there was not a single black sporting icon on the list. Did they not get the memo about this auspicious initiative or did all black icons turn down the invitation?

Or maybe the organisers and Bestmed, who are mentioned as sponsors, did not know of any black “sporting icons” in this country.

It is quite noble for Bestmed, as “a leading medical scheme”, to “understand the importance of research, finding cures and saving lives” but I doubt if this debilitating disease is discriminatory. So it would help to involve people from all communities in the fight against it.

The next disturbing thing I found in a great pictorial book, The Sporting Madiba: 50 Famous Photos, on our late former president and international icon Nelson Mandela.

It is a beautiful piece of work that is worth having. But while going through the glossy book, I came across a picture on page 9 showing an elderly gentleman putting boxing gloves on Mandela.

His name is not mentioned, but you don’t have to look twice to see that it is the late legendary boxing trainer, Theo Mthembu. He nurtured many a great boxer, including the late four-time world champion Jacob “Baby Jake” Matlala.

This picture was taken by the late Joe Sefale.

All the other individuals who appear with Madiba in the book are mentioned by name and their titles are provided – except this one.

Given the ugly history of where we come from in this country, such oversights need to be eliminated no matter how minuscule some people might think others are – in case some think we are still caught in a time warp where there are “their” heroes and “our” heroes.

Lest we forget!

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