This past week, for the umpteenth time, I listened to two knowledgeable fans unload about why they are not interested in watching our main sports anymore.
People today just do not care about the Proteas, Bafana Bafana or the Rainbow Cup. This is not because the Proteas lost badly against Pakistan, or Bafana Bafana losing out on the Africa Cup of Nations finals again. In sport, you cannot win all the time; we accept that.
No, the fans’ apathy has something to do with a disease that has been around for a long time: Politics. Or as an Afrikaans newspaper scribe recently called it “Politikus Gatvolivitis”.
Sport is supposed to unite us. The rugby World Cup song aptly describes it: “The World in Union”. This unity was strikingly demonstrated earlier this week in England. In an unprecedented show of unity, the fans of England’s six biggest football clubs stood together and forced their owners to abandon their plans of a European Super League less than 48 hours after announcing it.
In this country, however, sport seems to bring only discord, bitterness and chagrin. Boardroom agendas carry more weight than results on the field. Political points have become a lot more valuable than runs or points on the scoreboard.
Two weeks ago, Cricket South Africa (CSA) re-launched its Cricket for Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) project. Adv. Dumisa Ntsebeza will manage the SJN project. It is a misplaced attempt to either bring a semblance of order to the chaos CSA or deflect attention away from the chaos. Either way the focus is once again on everything but cricket.
For the next six months, Ntsebeza will listen to complaints about discrimination in cricket and will then make recommendations to CSA. According to CSA’s press release Ntsebeza “will look at the healing, restoration and uniting process of cricket players, fans, and the nation, starting with the former players”. Something like the former Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The former players, coaches and administrators who have been racially discriminated against since unity, will be afforded an opportunity to pour out their hearts. And then CSA “will implement realistic and sustainable measures” to compensate them. Presumably, this means financial compensation, but has CSA budgeted for this?
I honestly have my doubts whether the SJN project will achieve its lofty ideals. What I do know it will achieve, however, is this: It will send down a political bouncer that somewhere, sometime in the foreseeable future the Proteas will have to face, thereby once again taking attention away from playing cricket. It will also drive more fans away from cricket. One can say good riddance to those fans, but where is the pursuit of unity and nation building in that?
Surely the time, energy and money invested in the SJN project can be better used elsewhere. How about looking forward? Are the boys and girls born after unity not more deserving of that time, energy and money? The ones who do not care or do not know what happened donkey years ago. The ones who hold the future of cricket in their hands.
On the other hand, I could be wrong about the SJN project and will then be denounced as a cynic (or worse). But if the SJN project does not help CSA bury its past, the past might bury CSA.