Watching the recent ANC Elective Conference was truly scary. There was just so much at stake. When all is said and done it comes down to the economy, stupid, and an NDZ victory would in all likelihood have spelled disaster for SA.
I once spent five hours playing golf with Cyril Ramaphosa and it was fascinating; the conversation, that is, certainly not our golf. He spoke about the struggle, Madiba, Roelf, the negotiations and, most amazingly, his work in Ireland on the decommissioning of the IRA weapons. He regaled us with stories of secret flights from Paris, blindfolded car trips, and drinking copious amounts of whiskey with Republican priests. The results were amazing for Ireland and the peace process. I remember asking him what, after so many barren years, was the key to success? He surprised us by revealing that it was 9/11. How so?
All parties, bitter enemies included, realised that total disaster was the inevitable result of failure to compromise and listen to the other side. The Twin Towers brought all to their senses.
Now Cyril has to lead. He has to listen, discuss, and in the end make decisions for the good of the country, not just his party and his friends and family. He has to wipe out the memory of the Zuma years and restore faith, hope, and yes, charity. We have so much potential here that is not being realised. We wish him well, some of us with guarded confidence.
Hell, we need leadership in our sport as well don’t we? We have a young black skier who is being held back by SASCOC madness. We have our hockey being destroyed by the same body. I know a young black professional golfer who dreamed of playing hockey at the Olympics. He gave it up for golf when SASCOC decided not to support our teams who had qualified. Insanity.
Our soccer, more and more, reminds me of England pre the sixties. Despite the evidence of South America and parts of Europe the belief continued that England had a God-given right to rule the soccer world. When will we realise we are first rate in potential but third or fourth rate in realising it? Is it hubris, stupidity or greed, as keeping costs down can increase profit for czars of the game? Who knows?
Rugby is at a crossroads. Having ruled the world, then shared it with New Zealand, we now trail in the basement of the second tier. We play mediocre rugby in front of tiny crowds in the best stadiums in the world. We are in danger of settling for Sevens instead of the ultimate test of the game. Yet we still haven’t fired the coach. We are not ruthless enough in the interest of understanding the value of sporting success. It is not fun but rather about national pride and prestige. It is a serious business.
Most of our sports are the same. We do fairly well despite many or our administrators and coaches. Harsh? Yes! Look at the return we get on our potential. We punch below our weight.
The Irish on both sides of the border, politically and spiritually, realised that disaster is the inevitable conclusion to ignoring the obvious. Results, support and new young practitioners, alongside advertisers and sponsors, are the measures of how sporting bodies are performing. The facts are there.
Yet, we have shining examples of where working together for a higher purpose can result in excellence on the world stage. Look at Wayde and Caster. Look at the Sevens. Look at isolated plateaus in our recent sporting history. It is not rocket science and that’s what makes sports fans so cross.
All I want for Christmas is a Minister of Sport who insists on having officials in our sports bodies who get it. Even if they need to be from abroad, the right appointments have to be made. Let this coming year in politics, and also in sport, be the year when we decide to get back on the High Road.