The South African Football Association (SAFA)’s preamble reads:
CONFIRMING: The philosophy of non-racialism to be the guiding principle in the organization and in our endeavour to enhance unity, peace and harmony in sport in our country;
RESOLVING: That since the unification of national football structures on 23 March 1991 and re-admission to CAF and FIFA one National Football governing body was constituted;
That the National Football Federation is part of South Africa having a new constitution which entrenches norms and values of the civilized world and a Bill of Rights;
That the aforementioned social conditions were and still are the fundamental requirements for the entry of South African sport into the international sporting community in general, and in respect of football in particular to the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and Confederation Africaine de Football (CAF), Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) and South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) to constitute the Members of the South African Football Association, South African Football Federation, Football Association of South Africa and the South African National Football Association into an indissoluble single organization under the South African Football Association and under the constitution hereby established to promote and control Association Football.
The death of George Floyd, a black man at the hands of American policemen has led to resurgence in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and global solidarity with protests and demonstrations by various sporting federations and leagues.
For centuries as part of European imperial expansion, there has been discrimination of people all over the world, on the basis of their skin colour.
From this discrimination flowed an unequal treatment of black and indigenous people by European colonists – who were invariably white. In some areas of the world, the system of discrimination was imposed by law, while in others; it became the norm over time. These practices and laws produced not only material accumulation but, more importantly, also created a mentality of superiority amongst most of them who gained from it at the expense of black people in general.
The enslavement of black people and indigenous people from Africa (Goree Island in Senegal, Robben Island in South Africa among others, are symbols of black oppression) to the Americas, the West Indies and parts of Europe. This left a mental residue of white superiority which still continues to play itself out daily in our sport and in society – without any sense of compunction.
In many instances, the resultant psychological dehumanisation is sometimes worse than physical harm to the victims. Those who have this mentality of superiority, often facilitate and enable racial tension, and worsen the impact on the black community, in the football arena’s and in society in general.
Part of the mechanism to promote the notion of superiority and inferiority, was separate educational systems. Black children were being taught differently and the best education, sporting instruction and facilities were reserved for white children.
Similarly, Steven Bantu Biko, in his book ‘I Write What I Like’, wrote of his explanation to Senator Dick Clarke of the American Congress, “We are looking forward to a nonracial, just and egalitarian society in which colour, creed and race shall form no point of reference. We have deliberately chosen to operate openly because we have believed for a very long time that through processed organised bargaining, we can penetrate even the deafest of white ears and get the message to register that no lie can live forever. In doing this we rely not only on our own strength but also on the belief that the rest of the world views the oppression and blatant exploitation of the black majority by a minority as an unforgivable sin that cannot be pardoned by civilised societies” (Biko. 1978, pp. 158 – 159).
So, in simple terms, what the BLM movement seeks to achieve, is a complete recognition to be seen and heard as equals, and respect for black people all over the world. The BLM movement is a continuance of the Civil Rights movement, in which Dr Martin Luther King Jr was a leader, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa – all of which had the same basic objectives – social justice and equality for all.
For as long as the superiority mentality exists, we will see racism, and there will be attempts to push back against movements like BLM. But until proper equality for all is achieved, these movements will rise and serve as a reminder of what discrimination – especially violence against black bodies of women and men – has caused. The call for supporting this movement is, therefore, not misplaced, nor is it superficial. It seeks to draw attention to the BLM movement. The courage of the youth is to be applauded. We need to be heeding the call and support the movement. Our right to support this movement is based on our own SAFA constitution and is further grounded in South Africa’s Constitution and Bill of Rights, as set out in our preamble the formation of a single football body in South Africa, sought to contribute to the dismantling of apartheid and its iniquitous laws, to create a nonracial football body in a non-racial society. It should be remembered that Apartheid South African was suspended by FIFA in 1964 and expelled from FIFA in 1976. Football, unlike other codes refused to represent Apartheid South Africa. Those who raise these kinds of arrogant responses,
are exposed in more than one way, including not being fully committed to the BLM principle.
To a large extent, sport played an important role in the changes that occurred in South Africa, especially between 1985 and 1990. For football therefore transformation did not start in 1990 or 1994, transformation is and has been a commitment to football over more than 60 years. Sport was intrinsically bound in the process of establishing a non-racial society and the Bill of Rights, included in the current South African Constitution. For football therefore transformation did not start in 2011 or 2012. Transformation in is and has been a commitment over decades.
- Football is the only code that refused to represent apartheid South Africa and support the boycott of Apartheid affiliates to International Federations;
- Whilst most codes including Rugby and Cricket boast of International Participation since 1930 Football refused such participation until 1992, its first International match (62 years later).
- Apartheid provided the codes prepared to represent it in International competition world class facilities like stadiums to each provincial structure like Rugby Western Province, Newlands Stadium, Free State, Free State Stadium; Bulls, Loftus Stadium, Lions Ellis Park Stadium, Sharks Kind Park Stadium etc.
- Cricket: Eastern Province ST Georges Park, KZN Kingsmead Stadium Gauteng Wanderers Stadium;
- Football had to build its own stadium at FNB via a loan which was repaid and had a value of R587 Million in 2004. However, SAFA had to had over the stadium in order to achieve the objective of government investment to have a world cup stadium ready for the opening and the final matches.
- Football still does not own a single stadium in the country either on direct ownership or on a long term lease basis. Our structure in Cape Town has been evicted from Athlone Stadium where they had their headquarters. However, Rugby and Cricket are accommodated at Newlands Stadium. The Football World Cup Stadium has also been made available to Rugby.
- No Football structure has a headquarters in any stadium except the Port Elizabeth Stadium and only after a protracted fight.
- Schools and University’s sport has always been the bedrock of the development of Rugby, Cricket and Netball etc;
- Football because of our resistance against Apartheid had to operate outside white schools or now private schools. Football is not encouraged at these schools. The department has recognized that schools sport is the responsibility of SAFA and contact with SASFA must be terminated;
- These steps are essential for football to continue on its path of transformation.
Broadcast revenue: MULTICHOICE, notwithstanding its name, presents no revenue to SAFA nor does an alternative exist. SAFA has no choice.
SABC reduced SAFA’s Broadcast revenue from R110 Million to R25 Million in spite of meetings and pleas, no resolution is on offer to football. Rugby’s revenue from Supersport is R1.8 Billion and Cricket is R1.2 Billion over five years. SAFA revenue from Supersport is zero.
Banyana Banya and the National Women’s League matches are being ignored by Supersport. And its contribution to women football is zero. Black lives matter requires a new moral and ethical bases and the principle of equality to be at the base of our future engagement in sport and in football.
Transformation must include changing the funding patterns of Sport and examining the impact and dominance of a single player in the broadcast space and cross ownership in print magazines and media in general as well as ownership in sport.
SAFA carries a historical burden of lack of decent facilities, as well as, the burden of having a membership base of 2.1 million members the majority of whom are poor, unemployed and live in disadvantaged areas.
Black Live Matter must find full expression in sport in general and in football in particular.