Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In the shadow of the World Cup: ESPN covers the rape of South African soccer players

ESPN has done a story on the frequency with which South African women soccer players are raped, targeted as lesbians. (Female athletes often targets for rape) It is a good thing that a media outlet with ESPN's resources decided to cover this story.  But there are a couple of dots ESPN avoided connecting.

This comes two years after the murder of former national team player, Eudy Simelane. (See On the murder of Eudy Simelane and Girlie "S'Gelane" Nkosi, Eudy Simelane's teammate and lesbian activist, murdered). The timing of this story implicitly links to the opening of the World Cup next month.

I wish, I really wish they'd asked the question of what FIFA has done around this - as I've written in this blog before, were a male national team player murdered in a hate crime in a country hosting the World Cup, you can be sure FIFA would do something to address it - they would at least acknowledge it.  As far as I can tell, there has been absolutely no attempt to enlist the most famous men in the world - gathering in South Africa - in any sort of campaign condemning these violent attacks.

And - to make another point again - the situation in South Africa is extreme, but rape within a homophobic attack is not unique to South Africa. In the U.S., the most famous case of this might be Brandon Teena, a trans teen who was raped and murdered in 1993. His story is the subject of the film Boys Don't Cry.

I wish ESPN had made the FIFA link, and touched base with someone who could raise their awareness about homophobic violence. It would be altogether too much for them to also acknowledge the international importance of this story, as female soccer are marked for harassment and worse for playing "a man's game" in many more places that South Africa. This situation may be extreme, but it rests at the far end of a continuum of experiences of sexism and homophobia all too familiar to altogether too many people.

[Thanks to the reader who gave me the heads up on the ESPN story!]


  1. Thank you for a heads up about the ESPN documentary. Thanks to you, I wrote up a little about this documentary, the background, as well as quoting you from your post about Girlie S'Genale Nkosi about FIFA's seeming non-involvement in the issue of sexism and homophobia, to the readers of A Football Report. Just thought you should know.

    I'm a newcomer to your blog, but as a female fan of the game from a developing country, I am definitely enjoying your socio-political commentary about football.

  2. Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog. I look forward to reading your writing.


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