Press "Enter" to skip to content

Sports quotas: At last, a role for designated whiteys

The Congress of South African Trade Unions this week expressed support for the imposition of race quotas in soccer, pointing to the absence of white players in the national team as a grave social injustice.

On the paleface of it, what a breakthrough this is for minorities. Bafana Bafana – The Boys, The Boys – will presumably have a permanently reserved place for one white player, as well as another for a coloured player. But since coloureds appear to have been statistically over-represented in the team since 1994, every fourth year the coloured player will have to give up his place for an Indian player.

Talent scouts will roam the schoolyards, seeking out promising minority players, who will receive special grooming at footballing academies to bring them up to scratch. Contenders for the white spot on the team will be subject to the old pencil test, to ensure that they are not, in fact, coloured players trying to steal a march. So at last that infamous apartheid invention to determine ethnicity, utilising hair-curl elasticity as a proxy for race, will be put to progressive use.

But before whiteys get too excited about finally being beneficiaries of the national obsession for demographic correctness, after 20 years out in the cold, they should reflect on Bafana Bafana’s status in world football. Not only did the team not make it to Brazil for the World Cup, they didn’t even make the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations.

This is the team that Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula earlier this year described as “a disgrace to the nation … a useless bunch of losers … a generation of players best forgotten”. As a summation he added that their performances were representative of “a crisis of monumental mediocrity” in the national game.

Mbalula was roundly condemned for slagging off the team, which as it happens is, aside from one coloured player, entirely black in composition. Perhaps that is when it became apparent to the governing tripartite alliance that it was time to share the burden of mediocrity.

So while Bafana Bafana players of black descent will continue to aspire to be strikers or goalies, or stars in the midfield, the role of the white player will be that of designated scapegoat. When the team loses, as it mostly does, it will be the role of the white player manfully to shoulder the blame.

That is, except when it for the sake of variation, defeat is attributed to being the legacy of apartheid, which malevolently and with malice aforethought ensured that all the little boertjies played rugby. Only effete English-speaking whiteys were allowed to play the sissy game of soccer, the National Party knowing full well that should they became any good they could be trusted to emigrate, so as to play for Liverpool.

It is time now to correct past injustices and “level the playing fields”, in the parlance loved by Cosatu. As Cosatu’s Western Cape provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich put it: “[All] the national teams must represent the demographics of the whole country.”

Cosatu believed, he explained further, that race quotas were also necessary in rugby. The union federation had been approached by some black rugby players “to speak on behalf of their particular interests” since “the players” clearly represent the majority of white players and speak mainly in the interest of these white players.

Ehrenreich said also that there was a “racist cabal” trying to defend the generational advantage of white players. The only reasons that strict quotas were not being applied already was that “administrators have allowed coaches to make decisions outside of the national interest”. The national interest is apparently not actually to win games but to field a demographically accurate squad.

As aspirant white footballers – The Okes, The Okes – fire off, in the national interest, their applications to Mr Ehrenreich, we should reflect upon the wonderful service that Cosatu has rendered the nation. Until now demographic tinkering has focused on the over-representation of whites in various categories of South African life. As Cosatu points out it is now high time that the under-representation of mlungus be interrogated and rectified by the judicious application of quotas, wherever necessary.

Suddenly new vistas open up for the ANC’s social engineers. Just off the top of one’s head: basketball is a fast growing sport but there’s nary a set of pasty coloured knock-knees to be seen on the courts; in the transport sector there are virtually no white drivers of minibus taxis; and, in medicine, whites are woefully under-represented as traditional healers and circumcision school managers.

Ehrenreich is correct. These generational advantages that black South Africans have had, need to be corrected pronto. By the way, he points out that in order to be considered for a position, mlungu applicant circumcision school managers will be required to have their own complete set of rusty assegais with which to do the deed.

Follow WSM on Twitter @TheJaundicedEye


  • This Jaundiced Eye column appears in Weekend Argus, The Citizen, and Independent on Saturday. WSM is also a book reviewer for the Sunday Times and Business Day. Follow @TheJaundicedEye.


  1. grant grant 29 June 2014

    Yes, maybe even a whitey in the ANC executive or perhaps, one day, dare we hope that the 10th president of the bright new SA might have to be white?

  2. bernpm bernpm 29 June 2014

    Thanks William. A lovely piece of light but hitting sarcasm in response to the ridiculous demands from the various one sided and irrational comments.
    After all, we already have a nationally selected and color representative national parliament. It is time that the real numbers of the representative statistics on race, skin color and hair style will be published and subsequently applied to all organizations vaguely claiming to be “national”.
    The most effective way to kill any initiative to bring the nation forward.
    Maybe apartheid………………. was……..????

  3. Martin Warburg Martin Warburg 29 June 2014

    Love it!

  4. John Knipe John Knipe 29 June 2014

    I’ve always said that seeing the ANC is in power the whites don’t vote for them anyway why don’t they take over all the sport administration and then we will have ‘proper’ teams according to composition of parliament .

  5. Lalapansi Lalapansi 29 June 2014

    We just want to keep on losing – If only the South African economy could always use “the best people for the job”, no matter what, our and sport (and economy) would have been a different place.

    Affirmative Action has been and still is the wrong tool for this. It focuses the energy on fighting for the existing pie, instead of making the pie so much bigger so that everyone can hava fair piece of it.

  6. Gerry Gerry 30 June 2014

    I’m always bemused by quotas imposed for team sports, but no one bats an eyelid at individual sport where performance can be objectively measured. No one ever cries foul about the lack of non-whites in golf, tennis, swimming…

  7. Andrew Andrew 30 June 2014

    Lalapansi…..Methinks the pie has too much gristle in it……wonder what that means. Perhaps the enormous amounts of unproductive GDP expenditure spent on protecting the pie from the “birds”

  8. Barbra Barbra 30 June 2014

    Haha! My day just gor better. Thank you!

  9. bernpm bernpm 1 July 2014

    Observing the current FIFA world cup matches, I notice that the African (country) teams have largely been eliminated while the remaining European teams have a significant number of black players in their ranks.
    Many of these black players have a formidable reputation in the soccer world.

    What is wrong with African countries, the source of many brilliant and respected individual players, in this FIFA (or any other global) context??

  10. Father of swimmers Father of swimmers 2 July 2014

    @Gerry. You’re wrong about swimmers. All aquatic sports [except open water swimming] are subject to routine random and variable quotas and have been for nearly twenty years.

    These quotas have been successful in restricting growth in all aquatic swimming related sports, which presumably, was their intention: after all municipalities are increasingly moribund and swimming facilities are expensive to maintain, and the new cadre boss class needs to get three hundred years of lost earnings each month, to eradicate their own state of poverty.

    Some towns no longer have swimming facilities at all, and one i specifically know of, has eliminated all municial pools built during the Apartheid error, sorry, era.

  11. mtuka mtuka 2 July 2014

    If I were a white person, I would really regret and curse the day my ancestors introduced racism in what came to be known as South Africa, and indeed teh world over. I would also hate myself for so many years of basking in the limelight of white privilege. What was treated as a mere casual way of looking into the world, is justifiably coming back to haunt them.

    My message is: You started it, so live with it. Blaming others for your own undoings, will not take us anywhere.

Leave a Reply