Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2012 Olympics: A Note on Banyana Banyana

South Africa's women's team has a lot to be proud of. Qualifying for the Olympics is a big deal - this is a first for Banyana Banyana. This is also the first time Africa was allowed two teams in the tournament. Relatively little of the money and media attention poured into the country in 2010 flowed in the direction of their game. And scarcely anyone in the international sports media has paid attention to the difficulties faced by the squad since 2010.

Just as the World Cup hangover wore off, South African media reported on the terrible situation within the women's camp. The team's head coach, Nthabiseng Matshaba, had been harassing and abusing the women on the team. Two players came forward with complaints, which were corroborated by others. My understanding is that journalists in South Africa helped take this story public: but without players willing to come forward, nothing would change. It took a few months, but the guy was eventually ousted. That was in January 2011. Not that long ago. (See this old FaLW post about this story.)

Banyana Banyana will not be defined by this awful past, but rather by the strength of character that it took to come forward with the harassment charges and to push for change. And to then qualify for the Olympics. Portia Modise scored a goal against formidable Sweden today. Consider it a strike on behalf of the right for all athletes everywhere to play free from sexual harassment and homophobic abuse.
Portia Modise goes for the goal

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