We’ve all seen the movies, cars that transform into huge battling robots. There are good transformers, and bad transformers, Autobots and Deceptacons, one side heroic, the other megalomaniacal and power hungry. I remember watching the cartoons when I was younger and I think they were a far more accurate reflection of what the creators of the show wanted to portray.
They touched more on the moral ambiguity and also on the sometimes sticky topic of having a villain more powerful than the hero. Generally the Autobots prevailed not because they were more powerful, but because they worked as a team, whereas the Deceptacons were fractured, filled a with selfish desire for power and as likely to turn on each other as they were to fight the enemy Autobots for whatever it was they were after that week.
Transformation is South African sport echoes the themes so effectively revealed in those Transformers cartoons. On the one side, you have the people who genuinely want our sport to transform for the good of all the people, probably best illustrated by people like Ali Bacher, and then on the other side, you have those that push the transformation agenda simply to further their own ends, and are as likely to turn on each other as they are to turn on a sports team that is “too white”.
From my perspective, I think transformation in sport is a wonderful thing. Nothing fills me with more pride than watching a truly united South African team made up of all the races in our country fighting it out together against whomever they’re playing, if those players are picked on merit.
In my mind, however, I can think of nothing more unfair than picking a player of colour as a quota selection. It is unfair on the player, it is unfair on the team and it is unfair on the fans.
The details around the 2015 cricket world cup semi-final are sketchy at best. Rumour has it that Haroon Lorgat, that sycophantic blood-sucking cricket administrator, sent a text message overruling the Proteas selectors. Not only was that message entirely unnecessary, as all the players at the world cup were selected on merit, it was downright disrespectful to all of the South African players, selectors and fans and, if the rumours are true, Haroon should be fired and flogged by a hundred ten year olds for sabotaging their heroes in their mission and messing with things best left alone.
In the end, Vernon Philander, nursing an injury and with little playing time under his belt, was selected ahead of Kyle Abbot. Vernon has never been a quota player, and to paint him as such does him the ultimate disservice Mr Lorgat. You are a Deceptacon of the highest order, using the sensitive issue of race and transformation to further your own agenda and you should be ashamed.
This is the issue I have with transformation in South African sport. Nobody can deny that transformation in sport is a good thing. It means more players to choose from, it means more people from all different backgrounds playing sport and learning all that it has to teach about teamwork, pride, playing for your fellow man, discipline and all of those good things.
When it used as a political tool it becomes something ugly. It tears at the heart like an angry divorce between common sense and necessity. It builds up the very barriers it is intended to tear down. Instead of fostering unity, it ignites distrust and enmity. If we as South Africans work as a team to encourage natural transformation in our sport then success is certain, but if we, like the Deceptacons, turn on each other at the first sign of trouble, if we stab each other in the back on the eve of battle just to win some political points, if we put our own needs before that of the players and fans, then, I’m afraid animosity and spite will infect our sport and slowly but surely turn it into something horrible.