WATCH: The time to be scared and silent is over, says Springbok captain Siya Kolisi
JOHANNESBURG – The Springboks’ World Cup winning captain, Siya Kolisi, has spoken out and expressed his support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
In a powerful video, Kolisi talks about the difficulties growing up in Zwide township in the Eastern Cape and how, just 15 minutes away at Grey High School in Port Elizabeth - where he would go in his latter years of schooling - things were so different.
He mentions his friend, Nicholas Holton, who helped him learn how to speak English and how Holton was the only (white) boy who ventured into Kolisi’s world in the township. “I had to conform to the culture there to feel accepted,” says Kolisi. “And, only one or two people wanted to learn about my culture … one of them was my friend, Nicholas.”
The Bok flanker, who led the national team to world glory in Japan last November, also spoke about how under coach Rassie Erasmus the culture of the Bok team finally changed to allow every team member to feel appreciated and worthy.
“(Initially) once I got into the rugby thing I again had to conform to a whole new culture, learn a whole new language. When I first got into the Springbok team everything was done in Afrikaans, and I couldn’t speak Afrikaans at all. The calls were in Afrikaans; I had to translate from Afrikaans to English to Xhosa; it was really hard. I reacted late and I felt stupid and embarrassed. It was flippin’ difficult.
“Until now, when coach Rassie came in in 2018 and he addressed it; that we needed to transform as a team; but transform by not only having people of colour in the team, but the environment in the team needed to change as well. Also, that people in the team had to feel valued, every culture needed to be represented; as we were representing South Africa, a unique country.
“That conversation (between us and the coach) changed everything about the team. Then we felt valued, we could sing, kids in the township could see things were happening, we could focus on a common goal together.
“So, until our lives matter, no lives matter. I encourage people to have the difficult conversations, however uncomfortable, then we can move in the right direction. The time to be scared and silent is over; we must address the issues.
“If I don’t address it, then the next guy coming through is going to suffer as I did. Luckily now, with this movement people are standing up, and I won’t keep quiet.”
Kolisi further said the BLM movement “is more than sport, it’s about everyday life”. In the video he speaks about having feelings that he didn’t belong in the world when he was a youngster and that every day was about surviving only. “I learned at Grey that some people had up to six meals a day; in the township I sometimes only had one meal a day. You live in a bubble (in the suburbs) and I encourage people to step out of their comfort zones to go into other areas so they can see and understand why people are struggling,” says Kolisi.