SA men’s hockey furore grows

2008-05-24 00:00

THE furore surrounding the Resolution SA men’s hockey team took a new turn yesterday and looks set to further mar preparations for the Beijing Olympics, which is just two months away.

SA Hockey Association president Dave Carr and his deputy, Sheila Brown, yesterday addressed a press conference at Queensmead in Durban, the setting for the current Spar Women’s Interprovincial.

Four days ago Carr appeared before Parliament’s Sports portfolio committee (SPC). Its head, Butane Komphela, told the Saha boss the 16-man SA men’s team must be split 50-50 between whites and non-whites.

This contradicts Saha’s agreement six months ago with the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc). It was agreed then that at least five non-whites for the women’s team and six men would satisfy the SA Olympic governing body’s transformation requirements without compromising the team’s chances of achieving the best possible result in the 12-country competition in Beijing.

Komphela allegedly threatened to ban the team from participating in the Olympic showpiece if Saha does not comply with his demand.

Carr said that after discussions with members of Saha’s executive, he arranged an urgent meeting with Sascoc to discuss the situation surrounding the men’s team.

“The bottom line is that the government wants to change the composition of the team and I will be guided by Sascoc on the matter,” Carr said.

Thereafter, Carr said, he will convene a meeting with the SA men’s selectors and Saha’s executive to resolve the situation.

“The Beijing Olympics is not the be all and end all of SA hockey. The sport’s future doesn’t stop at the end of August and we’ve got to look at the bigger picture,” Carr said.

Speaking as an ardent SA hockey fan and not wearing her Saha hat, Brown said she found it puzzling that on one hand the government has said it is doing away with quotas (after SA’s Rugby World Cup victory, for example) and now it wants them.

She also questioned why the SPC is happy with the SA women’s team’s minimum requirement of five non-white players while demanding eight for the men.

“The Constitution of our country stipulates there can be no discrimination based on gender, so why are the men being targeted and not the women?”

Meanwhile, two ardent SA men’s hockey supporters told Weekend Witness yesterday they are prepared to engage the country’s top legal minds and to take the issue as far as the Constitutional Court to contest the 50-50 requirement.

“It is time to take a stand against interference in sport,” said one. “These players have given the best part of their lives to get selected and now their dreams are being shattered at the stroke of a pen.”

Another supporter said he would urge world hockey governing body the FIH and the International Olympic Committee to step in.

The International Hockey Federation constitution and the Olympic Charter forbid member states to discriminate on the grounds of colour.

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