Just after my induction into the South African Sports Hall of Fame (SASHOF) in 2007 (Class of 2006) I wrote a rather flippant article expressing my doubt as to the viability, value and prospects of success of such a project. I did acknowledge the honour of having been inducted etc.
I attended the induction of the class of 2008 held at Emperors Palace on 24th February 2009 and, having had some time to watch South African rugby legend, Naas Botha’s, dream starting to become reality, I am a convert and realise the value of such a venture.
Whilst witnessing the induction process, I began to reflect on my own sports career and the accolades, opportunities and great moments that will live with me forever. Fact is though, that was then and this is now!
So many South African sporting greats are so quickly forgotten after their retirement from top sport, unless of course they stay in the front line via television commentating, presenting or regular stints in the media. Comrades King Bruce Fordyce - a great pal of mine (excluding his support for Manchester United) is probably one of the few “legends” whom father time has not relegated to the scrap heap. He has an uncanny way of keeping close to his passion of road running and staying close to the event that he dominated for so long and therefore the marketing of the Fordyce “brand” perpetuates itself with seemingly little effort from the great man. Fact is, his is a true and very down to earth South African legend and has a remarkable consistency that we all adore – long live Dr Bruce Fordyce!
So then, let’s look at the cycle: You started to play a sport at an early age as a result of being encouraged by parents or friends or you were inspired by a star (whose name you have probably forgotten) and soon realised that you had a natural talent. You moved through the ranks and became a junior champion in your chosen discipline (in some cases several), got your junior school colours, same through high school where you were more elevated and recognised due to your age and growing audience.
You probably represented your chosen club (if you didn’t drop out of sport after school) and were snapped up by your Province where you were then able to flaunt their colours.
Suddenly it was the big time and, before you knew it, you were donning the “green and gold’ that all (except Luke Watson) patriotic South African sports people aspire to, and you then went on to become a national icon (hopefully for your on field antics) in your chosen sport.
Years later, someone came along, you were injured and before you knew it, it was the twilight of you career, the harder you tried the harder it got and you found yourself away from the game and the limelight that you once thrived in, very quickly became the last splutters of an aged glow worm in the dark.
I remember once reading of the great Danie Gerber (SASHOF) queuing for a rugby test match at Ellis Park – the very ground that he had almost single-handedly filled as thousands of rugby fanatics enjoyed his silky skills a few years earlier. Lest we forget!
The South African Sports Hall of Fame will immortalise the likes of Danie Gerber and Bruce Fordyce and many who came before, at the same time and indeed after them.
SASHOF has committed their research team to delve into this country’s dark history and unearth the unsung heroes who, had they been given the opportunity in their prime, would also have had their names in lights for their achievements. Posthumous awards will therefore be commonplace at the outset.
I was humbled to hear names such as Abdul Razzaq Abass (President of the South African Rugby Union 1966 – 1986), Krom Hendricks (cricket fast bowler) and Vusi Makatini (1930’s soccer supreme) amongst others as they were inducted alongside recently retired luminaries such as Alan Donald (cricket) and Elana Meyer (athletics). Even Madiba (as if we will ever forget him) was inducted for the role that he played in uniting the nation through the Rugby World Cup in 1995 when the Springboks prevailed over the mighty All Blacks at Ellis Park.
We all need this Sports Hall of Fame, we need to celebrate great people and aspire to the heady heights that they achieved, lets all get behind this long over due project and embrace it, lets immortalise those who we all strive to emulate.
Lastly, I witnessed some more great pals being inducted this year, all of whom have helped me in my crusade for athletes with disabilities, they included: Dale Hayes (golf) and Denis “Hutchie” Hutchinson, Imtiaz Patel, Russell Macmillan, Dan Retief and Gert Roets (media).
I was delighted that Danie Erasmus and Margaret Harriman were inducted: two true legends of the Paralympic Games!