« Previous | Main | Next »

South Africa: From sporting pariahs to World Cup hosts

Panorama reports from troubled South Africa this week as the rainbow nation gears up for one of the greatest shows on earth to hit its shores - the 2010 football World Cup.

Late last year, Panorama filmed with a team of skilful players in the shadow of the impressive Green Point Stadium in Cape Town. For these footballers the beautiful game didn't offer riches or international acclaim, but perhaps something more important - a shot at redemption.

For this was a team with a difference - made up of gang members and drug addicts from some of Cape Town's most notorious townships.

South Africa may now be well into its second decade as a multi-racial democracy but the country is still struggling with many deep-rooted problems, like unemployment, poverty, crime and drug addiction.

One area where the country has been able to shine is through sport.

However, the country found itself isolated from international competition in 1971 following a sustained opposition campaign to its apartheid policy.

Quite simply, it became too politically charged to engage South African teams in international sport and the country began over 20 years in the sporting wilderness.

Panorama reported on some of the problems this created for the sporting authorities inside South Africa in 1971 amid their desire to re-open international competition.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

Unfortunately, the political authorities at that time were about to enter into a period of hardline repression of the black rights movement and racial freedom in sport became just one of its many casualties.

The South African cricket tour to England planned for the summer of 1970 was one of the first high-profile casualties as the international community's condemnation of apartheid resulted in an unofficial, but widespread boycott.

Panorama reported in 1970 before the tour was postponed and again it was evident that many of those involved in South African sport had no problem in playing multi-racial sport.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

It's difficult to say why those involved in sports in South Africa at that time - especially those from the ruling white minority - were relatively liberal.

While some theorise that it was rooted in the threat of a sporting boycott by the international community, the more optimistic view is that it was borne of the epitome of the sporting ideal - the notion of fair play.

If so, those sport men and women of the 1970s who spoke out did so a good 20 years before the ideal of fair play spread to the nation's political leadership.


  • Comment number 1.

    I'm writing to say how disappointed I was in this programme. Whilst there was a skilled ability to parade the beauty pageant of deprivation in a sensational way... the questioning and interview technique was very simplistic. A question will always lead people in a particular direction - particularly when it is a closed question; there were very few open questions, or encouraging discussion about options for these young men. The developing relationship between the 'journalist' and the key interviewees - he became collusive and complicit with some serious behaviour. I was amazed at how you supported the condemnation of one characters tik smoking ex-partner. In her home - re-victimised, the journalist colluded and condemned this woman with the absent father who admitted, or celebrated the fact that he had beaten her to stop her tik-habit. He was not confronted about this. Great he's doing fine with the football team - but little to do with his own son. Yes the Journalist did confront him about this, but he either doesn't have the skills to confront further or wouldn't as it didn't play to the narrative he sought for this programme. - and I am in no way a liberal regarding her responsibility to fix-up and take responsibility for their son.

    Having just returned from a three month artist residency in inner city Johannesburg (we worked in Hillbrow, Jo'berg's most dangerous district) and experienced very different relationships with dis=enfrancished people than achieved by your team. There are a myriad of potential story lines that could demonstrate a reality without a) sensationalising b) over sympathising c) provoke discuission on camera instead of questions that provide answers 'What do you think when the mother of your child takes drugs....' etc etc

    There is another story about the World Cup and city centre Johannesburg. The re-claiming of space to build in readiness for the World Cup visitors. people from all over Africa come for the Jo'berg 'gold rush' and have been squatting for years in the central district. we met and worked with inner citizens and groups that repeatedly undertake a variety actions to campaign for better rights. They are currently on hunger strike in order to help a whole block of people have electricity and water re-instated after 8 years. Amongst the armed gangs, fear and continual erosion of space there are extraordinary people. A community that demonstrates and celebrates where and who they are. Including drug addicts, prostitutes etc etc.

    Your programme re-inforced a series of well contested myths about South African street culture and whilst showing a certain type of truth that does exist, did little to usurp expectation - truly 'drive-by' documentary making.


  • Comment number 2.

    I wanted to comment on the fact that they asked a drug user to secretly film his drug use with other. Sending someone who is obviously trying to go clean back into that environment, with something as valuable as a video recorder, to me was ridicules. Temptations was created and I found that irresponsible from the crew.

  • Comment number 3.

    As a South African watching this documentary I am disgusted at how the Panorama crew failed to take any responsibility for knocking Martin Afrika off the path to turning his life around. With some help he could have gone on to become a semi-professional football player. Who knows he may have had a chance of playing for the Ajax team in Cape Town or even going on to learning how to coach impoverished kids.

    You have to help the people to help themselves. What could’ve been one of SA’s success stories instead was turned into a train crash thanks to the documentary maker’s selfish agenda to capture “exclusive footage of drug-taking”. What did it show us other than people taking drugs inhale a lot of smoke and laugh when they’re high? It showed us absolutely nothing. Was it really worth recking this guy’s life once and for all?

    Its not far fetched to say that they probably condemned Martin to death because it will now be very difficult for him to recover from such a massive relapse. Is the BBC going to take responsibility for ruining the best chance this guy had to get away from a life of crime and drugs? He was doing just fine before they pitched up. I just want to say thank you to the film crew for coming to South Africa and messing up a junkie’s genuine and nearly successful attempt at kicking the habit. Thank you for putting that junkie back on street and allowing him to continue to being a danger to our society. Your film crew should be prosecuted for such a reckless act.


More from this blog...


These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

Latest contributors

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.