Another brick in the wall

| August 22, 2018 | 0 Comments

Isaak the coach approached me at our team’s last practice:

“Meneer, kan ons bietjie praat? Ek’s hoog die moer in! Sonny is no longer going. His parents have taken him out of the tour. Ons is nou een player short of the quota.”1 Isaak’s Afrikaans and English mixed language with his Cape accent got even worse when he was angry. He was the Under-14 coach – I was the manager for the upcoming interprovincial hockey tournament in Kimberley. For the last couple of months, we had been very busy preparing – he, the fitness and tactics of the team. And he had done an excellent job – we were going to do well, even though we were a small province. I had dealt with the problems and costs of transport, kit, accommodation, etc. And, of course, the issue of the transformation make-up of the team. As we all know, the requirements are strict: a team is disqualified unless there are the minimum number of players from the previously disadvantaged sectors of the population. We had made our selections carefully. And with two days to go, Sonny’s pulling out was a disaster. “Why have they withdrawn Sonny so late? Is it financial?” Isaak made a face and his voice reflected all the scorn he could muster: “Financial? For those rich people with their groot Bee Em Double-ewe? Dis net they don’t want to lose the discount hulle kan kry on flights to Mauritius for their holiday if they fly this week. But hoekom het Sonny nie vir hulle gevra to leave him to come with us to Kimberley?” I thought maybe Sonny had weighed up seven days in Mauritius against seven days in Kimberley – but I said nothing. We had a serious problem. To find a substitute player of colour who could play at this level (reserves could not be token bench-sitters) at this late stage would be impossible. “What can we do, Isaak? Even if we could find another player of colour, I can’t ask parents to pay for another disadvantaged child. Ta’ Sarie partly paid for her own son, Frikkie, and for Mpho by making and selling koeksusters (sweet pastries). At R5 profit on each koeksuster, you know how many koeksusters you have to make to meet the cost of a R6 000 tour?” Isaak smiled, “Meneer, leave it to me. Ek het a plan. Moenie worry nie. Ek sal met die organisers in Kimberley praat.” Isaak was a convincing rogue. If anyone could sort this out, he could. Nevertheless, I should have been more suspicious, especially after I saw him talking earnestly to Frikkie, Ta’ Sarie’s dark-haired Afrikaans lad – whose last words I caught were, “Meneer, moet net nie vir my ma sê nie, asseblief, meneer.” Arriving at the tournament, Isaak was as good as his word; he did the management job and spoke to the organisers. And we were not disqualified for quota transgression. Somehow, they thought we had conformed. Which was a miracle. But apparently not. How he had done it was only fully revealed to me towards the end of the tournament. One of the organisers congratulated me on our players, especially the “coloured” boy, Frikkie, who was selected for the Under -14 Combined Tournament team. “Frikkie?” I said, “But he’s not …” Which was when Isaak kicked me and I kept quiet. You see, it would never get out. The selectors would never reveal who was selected along transformational quota lines – they implied it was all done on merit. And on returning, when Isaak congratulated Ta’ Sarie, she was so grateful for what he had done for Frikkie: “Meneer, it was you who helped him get selected.” True, I thought. Just as long as she didn’t know the full story. As the saying goes: what happens on tour is best left on tour.

Bruce Pinnock enjoyed a long and illustrious teaching career.

Reference:
1. See, for example: http://diss.ltd/quota-system-south-africansport-help-hindrance

Category: Winter 2018

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