South Africa

D'Oliveira may be turning in his grave

2016-05-05 10:53
Basil D'Oliveira (File)

Cape Town - The crude, demented nature of apartheid as it affected sport was never more forcibly highlighted than in what became known internationally as the Basil D'Oliveira affair - precipitated by the decision of JB Vorster's racist Nationalist party regime to veto the inclusion of talented South African-born Cape Coloured Basil D'Oliveira in the England team for a tour to his homeland in 1968.

It resulted in England cancelling the tour and heralded the growing isolation of South Africa from international sport that ultimately played a significant role in the dismantling of apartheid.

With the creation of a democratic South Africa under the wise council and direction of Nelson Mandela in 1994 it was assumed that racism in sport would systematically become an odious memory of the past, with political interference no longer playing a part.

Not so it would seem - and while it is more misguided and piloted by egoistic considerations now than motivated by the racist malice of the past, it is creeping back again.

Take, for example, the goings-on of the past week when it was forgotten that contrary to the starry-eyed proposition often propagated that transformation in South African sport is an overnight exercise, it is one that should be imbued with delicacy and a fine sense of judgement.

Emphasising a lack of these ingredients was the controversial pronouncement made by Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula that he is "barring" South African rugby, cricket, netball and athletics organisations from staging international tournaments in the country for failing to meet their transformation quotas.

At the same time, Mbalula exempted SAFA because according to a curiously-named elite commission of 13 gentleman he had appointed to investigate the issue, the controlling body of South African soccer had made sufficient  progress with transformation.

Mbalula, one suspects, does not have the legal authority to bar rugby, cricket, netball and athletics from staging international tournaments in the country, only to withdraw all government support and place other virtually insurmountable obstacles in the way of any such undertakings.

But, notwithstanding this, the ironical anomaly that has emerged from Mbalula's action is that South African soccer, while satisfying the Minister of Sport and the elite 13 gentlemen - a number of whom have only a distant connection to sporting matters - is lagging substantially behind rugby, cricket, netball and athletics in their international achievements and recognition over the period in question.

Not only is South Africa ranked around a modest 70s in FIFA's world rankings, but even in the African context the country is positioned around an unflattering 15th place on the continent.

What is more, the indignity of probably failing to quality for next year's African Nations Cup soccer tournament in Gabon is staring SAFA uncomfortably in the face.

Because cricket, rugby and even netball are not world sports to the extent of soccer, it is easier for South African teams to shine in these respective codes and it is fair to remind all and sundry that the results of transformation do not emerge with the effect of Aladdin rubbing a magical lantern.

Still, there it is on the table. Transformation correct South African soccer is lagging in achievements behind rugby, cricket, netball and athletics, who have not met their transformation commitments.

And make of that what you wish as politics creeps back into South African sport.

As for the gifted and gracious D'Oliveira, whose parents were of Indian and Portuguese origin and who only went on to represent England with conspicuous success because his own country deprived him of this right, he may well be turning in his grave over the re-emergence of political interference.

Read more on:    sy lerman  |  athletics  |  soccer  |  cricket  |  rugby


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