Politicians bring sport into disrepute

Thumbnail

The players at the heart of the row are a mere corollary to a much bigger issue: the vexed problem of transformation in South Africa. It is not a sport or a business problem; it is a societal problem. More than 20 years after the walls of apartheid came down, we are still grappling with how to make it all work.

Lekgotlas, memorandums, charters and fancy policies have become our currency. We have quotas and targets and all manner of nonsense with administrators and policymakers walking on eggshells to satisfy their constituencies.

No-one said it was going to be easy, but it is difficult imagining a messier dogs’ breakfast.

Transformation has been shambolic, mainly because of narrow attitudes – on both sides of the argument – and a failure to get to grips with the real issues. Real issues aren’t noble pledges or vague commitments to transform. These are soft issues that offer soundbites rather than significant, lasting change. They sound good, but when you clear away the bluster, all you are left with are mere words.

There are three fundamental problems that affect South African sport’s transformation. The first is the convenient top-down approach; the conviction that our elite teams should be rainbow-coloured and cheery. This is the way, or so it goes, that you prove your heart is in the right place, by parading a team bathed in black and white (and every hue in between).

But it means nothing if the feeder systems are untransformed. This is why a bottoms-up system is healthier: the national coach can pick the best fruit that is available to him, from a broader base.

There are two other problems that go to the heart of transformation. The appalling lack of facilities in townships and an absence of top coaches ensure that tens of thousands of sporting ambitions are stillborn.

It is easy to say that our big teams should reflect the demographics, but that’s a naïve view that fails to recognise the reality of life with bucket toilets and shack dwellings.

Transformation, and, yes, I’m looking at you, government, should start with a commitment to ensuring adequate facilities in the impoverished regions of South Africa.

No-one cares about sport if they have no place to play it.

You need to give people a reason to play. To this you must add top coaching, where the experts are able to recognise and nurture top talent.

It’s easy to wave a big stick at federations and threaten them with all manner of ill for their apparent inertia. It’s far harder to construct a plan that aligns with the ambitions of rugby and cricket – the sports that cop the most stick – to broaden the game and include all races.

These sports do yeoman work in the townships, but only government has the machinery, and cash, to fundamentally change lives.

If you think of the athletes and boxers to have emerged from the slums, you can be sure that potential cricketers and rugby players exist among them too.

All they need is a pipeline that leads from a township facility to something more formal and structured.

For now, we are stuck with quotas and targets and the nudge-nudge, wink-wink nonsense that passes for intelligent debate on the matter.

Yet quotas are inherently patronising and insult the many black players who have turned out for the Proteas and Springboks.

You would think that after two decades our thinking around transformation would have graduated to something more cerebral and certain, but we’ve barely moved on.

The language hasn’t changed, the old issues remain and, as ever, it is the players who are in the firing line.

The remarkable thing is how dignified they remain.

Modern sportsmen understand the realities and complexities of life in South Africa and they throw it in among the many occupational hazards they must deal with.

It is the politicians and blazers at Sport HQ who have made a hash of things.

Thankfully, we have our noble sportsmen to redeem us. – Sunday Tribune.

It is the politicians and blazers at sport HQ who are making a hash of things.

Original source: Politicians bring sport into disrepute

by