Sport for change

South Africa – With the holiday period almost in full swing, many of us can’t wait to see the back of the office in exchange for time to unwind with family and friends, after all it has indeed been an exhausting year for most .

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that the years after the horrible chapter of the COVID-19 pandemic have been difficult .

Oddly, at times it felt as if two years had been crammed into a single calendar year .

Despite the doom and gloom of all our varying individual circumstances, South Africa’s sporting men and women this year gave us the ray of sunshine we all needed .

They not only brought smiles to our faces, but they gave much-needed hope and pride to the nation .

Think of the wonderful performance of Banyana Banyana who made history becoming the first senior South African football team to qualify for the knockout round of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup .

While not reaching the finals, the SPAR Proteas team made the country proud in their performance at the Netball World Cup that South Africa hosted in July and early August .

To add to the magic made on the sporting field, the men’s national cricket team, the Proteas, made the country proud at the 2023 Cricket World Cup reaching the semi-finals of the tournament in November .

This as the Springboks lifted the Webb Ellis trophy for a record fourth time since South Africa became a democracy in 1994 .

Their win at the Rugby World Cup in France and the performance of the other sporting codes did much for the mood of a country bedevilled by various challenges such as unemployment, gender-based violence and corruption .

We even glossed over the stress associated with being a sports fan .

I mean what is a little bit of yelling at the television in frustration because the team wouldn’t listen to our armchair advice or walking away from it without watching the match to the end because it’s just too stressful?
South Africans also withstood the dreaded bouts of load shedding that led to the missing of matches if one did not make alternative arrangements to catch the game somewhere else .

We have since put all that behind us .

  After all, we all know that being a fan of any sporting code is not always easy!
Sport supporters and part-time supporters who got caught up in the fever pitch of it all supported our teams .

We are not called a sporting nation for nothing .

South Africans rallied behind their national teams so much so that President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the 15th of December 2023 as a public holiday in celebration of the Springboks’ momentous achievement .

And yes, I completely understand that for some, social cohesion is an airy-fairy concept or government initiative that bears no weight in everyday-life situations where racism and inequality are very much part of life in Mzansi .

The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture defines social cohesion as “the degree of social integration and inclusion in communities and society at large, and the extent to which mutual solidarity finds expression itself among individuals and communities” .

In President Cyril Ramaphosa’s words the Boks’ win has “united South African people .

” I mean who can forget the viral clip of Springboks winger Makazole Mapimpi being cheered on by customers and store staff whilst out grocery shopping, and Eben ‘Elizabedi’ Etzebeth and RG Snyman dancing with South African fans near the Eiffel Tower in Paris?
The win showed that while challenges remain, the country has come a long way in its journey of democracy that involved the transformation of a country that only worked for a minority to a country that embraces all of her people .

The victories on the sporting field have a far greater meaning for South Africans .

These victories result in disadvantaged little ones and teenagers seeing themselves reaching and even exceeding the heights reached by the sporting heroes .

Sport is more than just sport; it unites us; it inspires us; gives us hope – and is often a ticket to a better life .

And while we all scoffed at the President for making the holiday only in December because we all needed one sooner rather than later, the time has finally arrived .

As a loyal sports fan, you have earned it, now enjoy it! -SAnews .

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