Durban – It would be an understatement to say that sport plays a valuable role in society when it comes to unifying a nation.
Some alive today got to witness the power of unification when South Africa hosted and won the Rugby World Cup in 1995, and others when SA hosted the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
But does the government care anymore about unifying its people through sport?
This is the question that arises after the South African national nine-ball pool team competed in the 2022 World Cup of Pool which took place at the Brentwood Centre in Essex, England, recently.
South Africa’s best player – Kyle Akaloo, and Jason Theron, however, had to fund themselves for the entire trip even though they were representing the green, red, blue, white, black and gold.
Akaloo, who spoke to IOL before leaving the UK for South Africa, said they did not receive a cent or a single message of support from the government prior to their departure.
The SA team also wore a plain black golf shirt, while most of the other countries had their flags and other branding on their outfits.
The SA team did not have a flag on their shirts during the tournament.
Despite the lack of support from the state, Akaloo said it was amazing to see “our flag” on the biggest stage in the sport of pool.
The World Cup of Pool is an international single-elimination tournament for doubles teams in nine-ball pool competition. Spain emerged victorious at the 2022 World Cup, after defeating Singapore to claim their first world title.
Unfortunately, Akaloo and Theron were knocked out of the competition by Great Britain’s B side due to some luck and skill on the side of the English.
Akaloo said the team had some chances but did not capitalise on it against the English to progress further in the tournament.
“We did well based considering we don’t have or haven’t been exposed to conditions like these. Our strongest point is our team chemistry.
“I don’t think we need to work much but rather get experience playing in that environment,” Akaloo said.
IOL asked him what support the SA national team received from the government, and this was his response.
“We represent our country on the biggest stage and yet we had absolutely no support from our government. Not a single cent, no clothing, nothing.
“Yet, you look around at other sport being played in South Africa and they at least get their travel or accommodation paid for. Almost every other country that was there had support from their government. They had sponsored kits, hotel accommodation, flights and spending.
“Even if it’s not fully paid, there should be something towards it at least. I mean we’re playing for our country,” Akaloo said.
Theron said it was probably the best accomplishment representing his country.
For the next world cup, Theron said the team should practice about a month before to understand one another.
“The most challenging thing is sponsorship towards these trips, as we have to pay our own way. Travelling is also a big thing, the amount of hours we have to travel compared to other countries takes a toll on the body,” he said.
IOL got in touch with the department of Sports, Arts and Culture to find out why they showed no interest in the national pool team’s trip to the UK.
We asked Minister Nathi Mthethwa: “Why did the Department of Sports want to erect a flag for R22 million, if it could not support its own national athletes who represented the country?”
We are awaiting a response from the minister.