2 DECADES OF DEMOCRACY IN SPORT
By: Ndumiso Nxumalo
Francois Piennar receiving the Webb Ellis Cup from former late President Nelson Mandela after South Africa won the Rugby World Cup at Ellis Park in 1995 is the definitive image of Sport’s contribution to democracy.
On the 24th of June in 1995 when Mandela and former Springbok Captain Pienaar stood on a podium at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, and raised up the golden trophy- that signified not only south African victory in the World Cup but that brief moment captured the essence of the free and united nation that were always part of Mandela’s ideal.
Although there are times South Africans can be deeply critical and in despair about sport, the achievement and success of the country’s sport people since the first democratic elections in 1994 have been exceptional and inspirational for the country.
Mandela expressed it best in the inspirational speech he delivered at the first Laureus World Sport Awards, abstracted and created by South Africans at Monaco in 2000.
Mandela said “sport has the power to changer the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unites people in a way that little else does. It speaks to you in a language they understand. Sports can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments breaking down radial barriers. It loughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”
Just a year later following the Springbok’s victory in the final of the world cup, Bafana Bafana was not only victorious in the Africa Cup of Nations but they demonstrated the true reflection of how unity in the new democracy should look like as different races of the Republic displayed not only the great talent South Africa has to offer but also the great deal of team work, showing the world that black and white are nothing but just colour that carries no weight.
South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 2003 Cricket World Cup successfully but the soccer World Cup which began in 1930 had never been hosted in the African continent until South Africa became the first African hosts in 2010.
Although the South African national team, Bafana Bafana , did not perform exceptionally during the World Cup did not do well in these games but that didn’t stop the joy and happiness of the people to enjoy the Worlds Cup.
The joy and happiness amongst South Africans was endless.
Bongani Yengwa who is the former Banyana Banyana assistant coach said South African sport has evolved dramatically considering the fact that we currently are excelling in some sporting codes like rugby and swimming.”
“In order to improve our sports, we need to invest in development and make sure that our youth from under 8-17 are being exposed to international tournaments on all sporting codes,” said Yengwa.
There is a little doubt that South African sport people have the ability, determination and dedication needed to excel and do well for a global audience.
Zethembe Zikhali who is a Sport Management student and a soccer lover said, “we as south Africans are doing very well, it just that we haven’t live to our standard in some sporting codes but soccer, cricket and swimming are doing just good ”
As the third decade of the democracy kicks off, it leaves the predetermined expectation and promise for all things good. The South Africa audience and the world at large needs to remind itself about the spirit and passion the late Nelson Mandela had for sport as a uniting tool amongst former oppressed citizens. South Africans also need to remind themselves that they are not masters but just servants of the sports they play.