Players are people too, remember that in these troubling times
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JOHANNESBURG - I’D liked this column to have been about Ireland’s first win against South Africa on Tuesday – a huge achievement for the Irish, and a staggering setback for the Proteas.
South Africa were poor. And reading what Temba Bavuma had to say, and the tone of his words, indicates that the SA captain is angry. Understandably.
Does it matter that Andile Phehlukwayo played a rubbish shot, or that David Miller dropped a catch? Or that the “death” bowling was rubbish? Ja, in the context of a cricket game, that may be the case. But those players wore “South Africa” on their shirts and this week SA is broken.
Colleagues and friends in KwaZulu-Natal can’t sleep because they are worried about protecting their neighbourhoods and families. Others are rationing food, while trying to spot a gap in the one street in Pietermaritzburg that hasn’t been blockaded so they can try and get bread and milk.
Can you blame Phehlukwayo and Miller, both from KwaZuluNatal – the epicentre of this mayhem – if they are distracted? Do you blame their teammates, who themselves might have family and friends in regions affected by this violence? I don’t. They are human.
Naomi Osaka put the spotlight on that when she withdrew from the French Open in May. The athletes we watch, shout at, cheer for and celebrate, are people, connected to the world around them, who worry, are angry and scared. So the Proteas deserve a pass.
As do Kaizer Chiefs, who headed off to Morocco yesterday to play what for the club is the biggest match in their history.
The Springboks too, who are trying to prepare for a series against the British & Irish Lions, a series which for any rugby player would be the biggest of their professional careers.
And the Boks have had to overcome hurdles related to Covid-19 and now all this violence that has been wrought upon SA.
Chiefs, the Boks, the Proteas, they provide us with an iota of distraction from a deeply troubled SA we live in. We should be grateful.
But as we tune in on TV (because we can’t go to matches as a result of Covid-19) and we hammer away at our phones dishing opinions on the players’ performances, it’s worth remembering that they too will carry concerns and anxiety about families and friends with them.
They are not disconnected from their communities simply because they don black and gold or green and gold outfits.
They give us hope.
A word too on colleagues in the media, who are covering these depressing events for TV, websites, radio and newspapers.
Their jobs are essential. Media in SA has been ravaged by cuts, and yet amid the trauma that’s been created – well beyond the control of most journalists – men and women have shown great courage in telling the story as honestly as possible.