HOW WE PLAY THE GAME IN LIFE, IS HOW WE PLAY ON THE FIELD
South Africa is a country in distress. So many social ills plague our country – stagnant economic growth, high unemployment rate, underperforming sporting codes and an education system in crisis.
At any given time, sport is a microcosm of its own in society. Remember Bafana Bafana winning the AFCON in 1996 and the Springboks winning the Rugby World Cup in 1995. These were moments in our sporting history of hope and opportunity. In 1994, South Africa broke away from the shackles of the past and one could truly say we had entered a new dawn. These sporting moments capture our collective effervescence as a nation to redefine ourselves and share in a better tomorrow.
The current state of sport in South Africa is concerning particularly Bafana Bafana, Springboks and the Proteas. The momentum and energy of development programs of the 1990s seem to have fizzled away. Yet the opportunities available across major sporting codes have increased significantly. I am of the view that the current state of all these teams is interlinked to the underperformance of the economy and the challenges we face as a country. These combined issues have an interesting way of playing out in sports.
It is difficult to point out what happened in the World Cup. As the President of SACA, I firmly believed that we would be competitive and rumble with quiet confidence through the playoffs. What was evident to me and all South African fans was that the team played the out of character.
Cricket South Africa chose the best players to head to England. These 15 players had earned their place in the team however when it mattered most, the team struggled to rise to the occasion. What we saw from the Proteas team resembled the current state of the nation; low in confidence, lack of unity and ultimately a lack of gees needed to turn things around as their crisis deepened game after game.
The 2019 FICA Annual Board meeting took place in London, during the Cricket World Cup and I had the opportunity to attend and participate in the conversations on International Cricket (More detail next blog). The take-home message was that a successful and competitive Proteas team is critical to the eco-system of international cricket. This message is powerful because cricket in South Africa finds itself at a crossroads as SACA and CSA are embroiled in a legal battle about the domestic restructure and financial sustainability of the game.
Irrespective of who wins the legal battle, the most important outcome needs to be in the best interest of the game we all love. A resolution must harvest the best system for cricket and produce transformation excellence and a winning Proteas team. This will allow us to be a global competitor, transformative and financially sustainable.
I’m not one for sharing problems without solutions. What we need in Academics, Sports & Arts and Culture is:
Nationally: Excellent coaching, high-performance focused and a transformed, globally competitive team.
Domestically: A competitive domestic structure that is financially sustainable without government funding. And a structure that promotes excellence from administration to the field.
Youth: The biggest challenge for sport in this country rests in the low levels of participation by the youth.
Sports, Arts and Culture have to be re-integrated in the school curriculum (also known as ‘The Holy Trinity’). If the government can redesign the curriculum in this way the future of the sport in this country is destined to succeed! This has many positive spin-offs namely; crime reduction, drugs and alcohol abuse reduction among the youth and job creation within schools for coaches within Sport, Arts and Culture departments.
The reality is, this model already exists in our country where only those with access to financial assistance are able to enjoy its benefits. The government needs to adopt and support this model for public schools and the rest is history.