Siwaphiwe Myataza
Siwaphiwe Myataza

Spare a thought for women footballers

By Siwaphiwe Myataza Time of article published Mar 27, 2020

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Cape Town - South Africa enters a national shutdown on Friday.

From one minute after midnight, many are expected to stay home, and businesses that are not essential must shut down.

Failure to comply with the rules could lead to a month in jail, or a fine.

The lockdown is intended to slow the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak, which has affected nearly 1 000 people in the country, with no deaths reported.

Details of exactly how day-to-day life will work continue to emerge.

However, I am more interested in how the day-to-day life will look like for women footballers, some of whom are part of the LGBTQ+ community, during the 21-day lockdown.

I am curious because some women footballers do not like spending time with their families because they get discriminated against due to how they look, do things, talk, walk and dress. Their sexuality is always a topic of conversation when they go back home.

While I am not suggesting that every woman who plays football is part of the LGBTQ+ community, many of them prefer dating women.

Hence, most women footballers prefer spending time in clubhouses to being made to feel inferior by their family members.

Why do I say that women footballers may be victims of discrimination at the hands of some family members during the lockdown?

That is because most black families are not so tolerant as far as LGBTQ+ community members are concerned.

You get parents who force players their kids to act straight when really no one should dictate nor police other individual’s lifestyles and sexuality.

“We’re queer and we’re here!” is the declarative title of a new report on LGBTQ+ South Africans, which reveals that while tolerance is rising in the country, a staggering four out of 10 LGBTQ+ South Africans know of someone who has been murdered “for being or suspected of being” lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Black members of this community are twice as likely (49%) as white respondents (26%) to know of someone who was murdered on these grounds.

The risks are particularly high for black LGBTQ+ people.

The research shows that only half of black LGBTQ+ people are completely open about their sexuality. The black LGBTQ+ community are more likely to be victims of physical violence than those in the other race groups - this could possibly add to the reluctance by many to reveal their sexuality.

The fear of coming out, especially to family members, remains a challenge for many members of the ­LGBTQ+ community.

While there is a growing trend of tolerance and open-mindedness, a majority of South Africans support constitutional protections for LGBTQ+ people, but struggle to display high levels of tolerance for their gay neighbours.

On paper, this country is a haven for LGBTQ+ people, but there lies a stark contrast between the written policies and lived experiences. This is where we need to direct our focus.

I feel like we all should be better educated and increasingly tolerant when it comes to LGBTQ+ people.

That is not only the right thing to do, but a solution to the toxicity that exists in many homes as a result of polarised views on sexuality.

Despite the uncertainty that lies ahead, the long-awaited national women’s league finally kicked off last year after years of promises.

I celebrate the league, especially because South Africa finally has a structure that sees the best women’s football teams do battle with each other more regularly.

Women’s football clubs have mostly been facing financial challenges, and therefore cannot afford to accommodate players, especially at a time when the country is experiencing tremendous socio-economic issues.

In addition, Safa Women’s National League is facing enormous and strenuous financial battles.

Because Safa has struggled to get sponsors for the league, clubs have been forced to carry the financial burden independently.

Myataza is a political science graduate from UWC, and the founder of Village Girl Creatives. She writes on sport.

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