Pressing issues: SA sport enjoys fruits of the struggle

2012-07-21 15:06

Watching English Premiership giants Manchester United take on AmaZulu at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Wednesday evening stirred deep emotions.

As a teetotaller, it can’t have had anything to do with imbibing some waters of immortality.

I guess it had a lot to do with the fact that the match was played on the day our iconic Madiba was celebrating his 94th birthday.

My mind cascaded down memory lane to the days when we could only listen to radio commentary to know what was going on with the likes of the mighty Red Devils and other European football giants.

Eventually, we could watch stuff like the FA Cup final on small black-and-white TV sets.

Even when colour TV was introduced, we still couldn’t watch any European sides in our country due to the sports boycott of South Africa, a nationtreated as a pariah because of apartheid.

I remembered how at some stage a large contingent of South Africans had to trek across the border to the tiny kingdom of Swaziland to watch one of my favourite clubs, Liverpool FC – long live The Reds – play there.

There was also a great deal of excitement when football fans travelled to Somhlolo Stadium in Swaziland to watch their English hero Garth Crooks star for the English Lilywhites, Tottenham Hotspur.

With tears streaming down my cheeks, I reminisced about the excitement at meeting the Cameroon national football team – fresh from their 1990 Fifa World Cup conquests in Italy – at the then Jan Smuts Airport, coming here for South Africa’s first international.

All that came to my mind was that while we can take things like United tour lightly, they are what is called Matunda ya uhuru – meaning the fruit of independence – in KiSwahili.

It is partly the fruit of the struggle waged by the likes of Nelson Mandela, Dennis Brutus and Sam Ramsamy that, on Thursday evening, we sent a team of 125 athletes to represent this nation at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

We wish them well.

But while we celebrate and enjoy our uhuru, it is sad that there are children in rural areas of our country who still do not have access to facilities that could see them use their God-given talent and develop it to the point where they might compete against, or even be, the best in the world.

Even more sad is that the culture of kitu kidongo (KiSwahili for something small), widespread on the continent, is manifesting itself in our nation.

Many people who hold keys and key positions are not prepared to open those doors without getting kitu kidongo.

These days, many people have to pay bribes to get their children enrolled at sports development centres, no matter how talented the child is.

This culture needs to be uprooted so our children can freely enjoy the fruit of our freedom and make their nation proud on the international sports scene.

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