Sport unifies people

2010-06-19 00:00

HOSTING the 2010 World Cup did not start six years ago when South Africa won the Fifa bid, it started in the 1950s with the formation of the non-racial South Africa Soccer Federation (SASF), which defied the apartheid government and applied for membership of Fifa.

Norman Middleton, a veteran in the struggle for non-racial sport, made these remarks on Thursday at the opening of an exhibition on the historic Curries Fountain Grounds in Durban.

Middleton said football enabled communities to rise above their poverty and struggles.“Even for a few hours it helped us regain our self-respect and pride.” He said it also assisted individuals to break out of the cycle of gangs and violence.

The former president of the South African Council of Sport (Sacos) said just as the World Cup is unifying people today, non-racial soccer played a similar role in the past. This was despite the Group Areas Act being used as a strong lever to keep people and sport apart.

“Yet today, why do we have more segregated sports teams than in the past right up to national level? Something is wrong, somewhere or with someone.”

Middleton said in the past non-racial sport was successfully organised by unpaid volunteers with minimal resources. “Often times we had to dig into our own pockets. Today much money is allocated to sporting codes and to so many paid officials, yet we still witness a lack of sport development from junior level upwards and contestations and court battles about the election of officials.”

He went on to ask why there is difficulty finding suitable and disciplined players to fill a place in the national team when there are thousands of football players on the fields every Saturday. “Once we take our eye off the ball (i.e. the players) and look at personal and financial benefits to be gained … our soccer will never rise to greater heights.”

According to Middleton, a huge challenge after the World Cup will be the R1,8 million Fifa gives to the South African Soccer Federation (Safa) for development. There must be vigilance that the money is not dished out in golden handshakes, but used for the proper purpose, he said.

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