Expert in colonised sport points to a levelled playing field

16 September 2017 - 15:55 By Petru Saal
Nelson Mandela congratulates Springbok captain Francois Pienaar after the team beat the All Blacks to win the 1995 rugby World Cup. Among the themes at the conference is: 'Dressed for success: Historicising Nelson Mandela and the 1995 Rugby World Cup'.
Nelson Mandela congratulates Springbok captain Francois Pienaar after the team beat the All Blacks to win the 1995 rugby World Cup. Among the themes at the conference is: 'Dressed for success: Historicising Nelson Mandela and the 1995 Rugby World Cup'.
Image: GALLO IMAGES

Stellenbosch University and its museum are hosting a conference to discuss the decolonising of sport.

Francois Cleophas‚ from the Department of Sport Science‚ said the conference was being held at a time when discourse on decolonisation had become a “guiding principle” in South Africa. “However‚ the discourse does not always include sports studies. This conference addresses this gap and it is appropriate that it takes place in Stellenbosch with its controversial past‚” said Cleophas.

Among the themes at the conference are: “Dressed for success: Historicising Nelson Mandela and the 1995 Rugby World Cup”‚ “Social media: the last hope for creating a non-racial sport archive”‚ “The demise of a vibrant school sport programme in a post-apartheid South Africa”‚ “A tale of two sports fields: contested spaces‚ histories and identities at play in rural South Africa”‚ and “Muslim women and sport: On traversing the politics of ‘religious’ identity”.

The keynote speaker at the event‚ which ends on Saturday‚ is historian Andre Odendaal‚ the CEO of Western Province Cricket‚ who has written books on cricket history and South Africa's political struggle. He is a honorary professor in history and heritage studies at the University of the Western Cape and a former director of Robben Island Museum.

Odendaal told TimesLIVE it was important for people to understand how institutionalised exclusion occurred under colonialism and apartheid until it was accepted as “natural” that black South Africans did not play sports such as cricket and rugby.

Contextualising the history of sport‚ Odendaal said it helped people to understand how the exclusion of certain groups from specific sports had reinforced biases that blacks did not play “European” games.

He described his career as a “wonderful journey” and said he was eager to “just talk about the lessons of that journey” in the 45 years since he studied at Stellenbosch University‚ edited Die Stellenbosse Student and captained the university cricket team.

Odendaal said debates like these also helped institutions such as Stellenbosch University to “examine themselves” and embrace new narratives.

Said Cleophas: “It was for this reason that [Odendaal] was approached as keynote speaker for this conference.”


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