On Sunday the 27 of April 2014 South Africa celebrated 20 years of freedom, 20 years of democracy. Sports played a major role in its efforts to unite the nation. Let us look back at the significant sporting moments that took place over the last 20 years.
The first major achievement was hosting and winning the 1995 rugby world cup. It was amazing because it came just a year after the first democratic government was elected in the country. During the colonial and apartheid rule rugby was regarded as a white men sport. Here we were hosting a rugby tournament, and the whole nation behind the springboks.
All of a sudden sport was seen as a tool to unify our nation. Who can forget our former president the late iconic Nelson Mandela pitching up at the Ellis Park in the final against New Zealand wearing a number 6 jersey identical to that of Captain Francois Pienaar? It was a historic event by itself.
Then the following year 1996 it was the turn of the national football team Bafana Bafana. Under the brilliant guidance of the human helicopter Clive Barker South Africa managed to go all the way and lift the African cup of nations commonly known as (Afcon). Like the previous year they had the support of the nation and felt the Madiba magic.
Like he did with the rugby side Madiba came to the game wearing Captain Neil Tovey number 9 jersey. Although there are still arguments about how the tournament unfolded and who participated and who didn’t history was written yet again.
That very same year four South Africans came back with 5medals from Atlanta Olympics. Swimmer Penny Heyns came back with 2gold medals, Josia Thugwane won the marathon, Hezekiel Sepeng came second in 800m and the last medal came from the pool Marianne Kriel with a bronze. This proved to be a good year for SA sports but it was just the beginning of many historic events.
In 2003 we hosted the ICC cricket world cup. Although the Proteas disappointed by not winning the event, however the tournament was successfully hosted in the country. The most significant and memorable one has to the successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA world cup.
It was for the first time the tournament was to be hosted in Africa and we had the pleasure of hosting it on behalf of the continent. There was a lot of excitement and unity among South Africans. In stadiums, fan parks and public viewing areas South Africans were there enjoying themselves. Once again sport was able to do what other things cannot do which is to unite the nation.
The downside in sports over the last 20 years has been the lack of transformation especially in cricket and rugby. Only 15 black Africans managed to represent the springboks in test rugby. The same is happening with cricket with only 4 players having played across all formats of the game. There is no doubt that more should have been done to make sure we have transformation in sports.
That’s an issue for another day I will tackle it soon it needs to be addressed I have noted the minister of sports comments on this issue. May South African sports men and women continue to inspire and unite our beautiful country.
By: DANIEL BOYA
Edited By: M.D.B