Imposing Transformation in Sport – Is It Really Necessary?

2016-05-24 08:52

The relatively recent announcement by our Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula, to prohibit four of the country's top sporting codes from hosting international events in SA, because of a  perceived lack of transformation, certainly "struck a raw nerve" with many sports-loving South Africans. In my opinion, it was a most divisive, and ill-considered move, on the part of the Minister!

I was astounded that SA sport was again being subjected to political interference – one would have thought that we'd learnt our lessons from the days of Apartheid – patently, we haven’t!!

I was surprised at the Minister's view that transformation was inadequate within these sporting codes because I've been of the opinion that SA Cricket and SA Rugby (I'm not that knowledgeable on SA athletics and basketball) have made major strides in transforming their respective sports!

Getting sportsmen/women up to what is considered "international level" is something that can never be guaranteed. Experience has shown, that a budding sports star can show great promise as a junior, have the best coaching/training, and access to the best facilities, but not quite achieve "international level" – and that's why I believe that the Minister is being rather harsh and unfair on the sports codes that he has targeted - sporting achievement/success is never guaranteed!!

Of course, the whole discussion "takes a 180 degree turn" if the Minister's contention is that racial discrimination is currently playing a role in the selection of teams.

If that is so, I will immediately "rest my case"!! Of course, I'm assuming that we currently don't have racial discrimination playing a role!

Team selections are always going to be subjectively made and therefore, by definition, will usually be controversial.

As an English-speaking White South African, I was of the view, back in the 1960's - 1980's, that there was favouritism shown towards my Afrikaans compatriots when it came to Springbok (rugby) selection but, because of the subjectivity involved, us “rooinekke” ("red-necks") had to essentially shut-up and accept the situation!

Reverting back to the current issue of racial transformation in sport, I do believe that recent history has demonstrated that the racial composition of our national sporting sides isn't that relevant when it comes to the broad-based local support of these sides.

For example, in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, I believe that we saw massive Black support for our 100% White Springbok rugby team.

The national euphoria, which followed the Springboks' victory in the RWC Final, appeared to cross all racial lines!

When Bafana Bafana won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996, the whole nation celebrated the victory! Granted, there were a number of White players in that side, but no one was counting how many Whites, and how many Blacks, were in the Bafana Bafana squad!

In 2010, the country's Whites certainly got totally behind our, 100% Black, 'Bafana Bafana' team in the Soccer World Cup.

I'm not a soccer fan but, as a White South African, I attended four SWC matches, wearing my 'Bafana Bafana' supporters' shirt and trying my best to "play" my vuvuzela!

I certainly didn't see 'Bafana Bafana' as a Black team - I saw it as OUR TEAM!

If one accepts what I've just said, is IMPOSING transformation really so necessary?

I believe that IMPOSED transformation will be done at the cost of fuelling racial divisions within the country (unfortunately, something that suits certain political interests) and ensuring sub-par performances by our national sports teams. Insisting on race-based quotas, as opposed to pure merit selection, HAS TO result in less competitive national sides - but the nation's psyche needs sporting victories!! Sporting success, at the national level, boosts the overall morale of a nation's citizens, and it's been proven to have very positive spin-offs for the national economy!

I am therefore disappointed that the "New South Africa" isn't the non-racial society that, back in 1994, I naively believed it would be!

It's still a case of race, race, race, race, race - just like in the days of Apartheid!

We still have race-based laws (heaven forbid!!) in the form of B-BBEE and Employment Equity legislation – and now even more Draconian sports team (racial) quotas

A tip, for our leadership, from that famous Hollywood (Black) actor, Morgan Freeman: “How are we going to get rid of racism? Stop talking about it!” Wise words, indeed!!

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