Grassroots development ‘in need of attention’

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“The South African Sports Indaba 2011 is yet again going to put good money after bad. The Joe Ebrahim and Harry Hendricks interviews were relevant then and are relevant now. Make no mistake, this is not harking back to the Sacos days, but a comment for genuine transformation of the majority in a new democratic dispensation on all the sports fields of the all the codes, yes, even jukskei!”

THE euphoria of international sport in South Africa is enjoyed by all, but there is a voice questioning the role played by current sports administrators, writes CLEMENT du PLESSIS.

The voice comes from a stalwart in South African sport who tirelessly speaks with conviction as he sits back on a simple chair expressing his view.

“I don’t bear malice or bitterness, only sadness because the focus is not on our masses of children,” said a former president of the South African Council on Sport, Joe Ebrahim.

Ebrahim, 53, takes up his position as an acting Supreme Court judge on October 15.

He said there were insufficient numbers filtering through supposed development programmes.

“The development programme was never rooted in townships such as Langa, Bonteheuwel, Mitchell’s Plain and Nyanga.

“These programmes are not visible,” argued Ebrahim.

He said instead of spending a fortune on sending small groups of players overseas to be trained, money should be spent on bringing out overseas coaches to develop skills.

Ebrahim said the advent of what people call sports unity today should have prioritised a growing period for developing players.

He cited the “indecent haste” into international sport as the major disadvantage for the growing number of players in the country.

Web Joe
Former Sacos President Joe Ebrahim was spot on in 1997.

The composition of the national teams, especially the so-called white dominated ones, will remain because the youth have not been given a chance to develop and compete on an equal footing,” he said.

He said the department of sports and recreation should come up with a five-year-plan to address past imbalances.

Ebrahim, who has been out of sport because of part-times studies (he is studying for his LLM in constitutional litigation) had been invited to one or two international events.

He said because of his high profile in the anti-apartheid era he found it difficult to just walk into the Newlands Cricket Ground.

He said he may differ on strategy with some of his friends in the former anti-apartheid sports movement, but nothing prevented him from engaging in healthy debate.

“As you know, I have been involved in Sacos sport for a long time and perhaps with time I will attend international events, but for now that is a small sacrifice to make,” he said.

Ebrahim objects to sports administrators who organised rebel tours and who today are running some of the most powerful codes in the country.

“You have a situation where they have been allowed to head these codes as if nothing has happened.

“They should be genuine about uniting this country.

“I have not heard a single one of them admit to the divisiveness caused by the rebel tours.

“They have divided our people and they should admit it,” he said.

On the Olympics, he questioned why the utter haste and why people are clamouring for the 2004 Games.

“I am not against the Olympics. Perhaps we should have the Olympics in 2012 or even later. There are more important issues at stake,” he said.

And the doyen of Sacos, retired educationalist Harry Hendricks, threw his weight behind Ebrahim and the 2004 anti-Olympics movement.

“We should look at the country and ask ourselves how stable it is.

“The Olympics at this stage cannot be good news.

“Let us get our house in order and have the Olympics when the country is stable,” pleaded Hendricks.

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