- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The subtle old man, you soon realize, is only testing you. He is more complex than you would have suspected, and honest, too. "There was a time," he tells you, "when we were not even aware that blacks and coloreds were playing rugby. Or any game. Because to us it didn't matter. There was no friction. We were the bosses and they were the servants. There's no doubt that South Africa has been wrong in many ways. And what we have, we brought on ourselves."
Then he's teasing you again. "You people outside know more about the apartheid laws than I do," he goes on. "I have never taken any notice of them. I've detested them, and I've said so openly." He claims that when he became president of the rugby board he started to work to bring blacks and coloreds into his sport, but that not until the last six or seven years did the changes in government policy permit him to set up coaching plans involving nonwhites. Everything is not perfect, he says, and it is the implementation of the government's reforms, especially in the small farming communities, that is still a problem.
"Our clinics now," Craven explains, "take us right into the hinterland of South Africa, into the highly conservative country districts, the tough areas." But the little dorps (country towns) and municipalities away from the big cities fight a bitter resistance movement even toward multiracial sport, as Craven knows full well. Last year in the East Rand, 15 white schools boycotted his own Craven Week Rugby Tournament because it involved nonwhite sides.
"Because of our history," he admits, "there are some white schools that won't participate in our program. The others who don't come are our enemies, the SACOS people. They refuse to let their children play against whites.
"I wish I could meet that Sam Ramsamy," Craven says suddenly. "But he'll stay clear of me."
A lot of people in South Africa would like to meet Sam Ramsamy, but he's safe in London, chairman of the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee, SANROC, with its links to the influential Supreme Council for Sport in Africa and the United Nations' Centre Against Apartheid.
And to the truly verkrampte (racially hard-line) South African white, though not to the pragmatic Dr. Craven, Ramsamy is everything from a representative of the Politburo, financed by Moscow gold, to the worst kind of traitor. It might be instructive for them to see the London base from which he works, a tiny, cluttered office in the basement of a cheap hotel in the Marble Arch district.
Ramsamy's own sporting credentials are impeccable. He is 43, small-built but square-set, by race an Asian but preferring to be called black. (In the interests of nonwhite unity, most activists against the government's apartheid policies now refer to themselves as black, be they Asian, colored or native African.) In Ramsamy's native Durban, unconcerned with politics at the time, he represented Natal Province in track—black Natal, of course—in the 100 yards. Later he became national coach of the (black) South African Swimming Federation. Only gradually did the indignities imposed on his race translate themselves into his present political stance. "We'd be herded into a corner of the field for a soccer match," he recalls. "We had to urinate in the gutters. All the facilities were for whites.
"I had some very good swimming kids under my care," he says, "but I could see what a low ceiling there was for their achievements." By this time he was lecturing in a teachers college, and his views had started to form. "In '71," he says, "I was President of the Natal High Schools Athletic Association, and the government had set up big celebrations for the anniversary of the founding of the republic. So secretly I organized the high school kids in a boycott of the festivities, which became a shambles.
"I thought I'd gotten away with it," he goes on, "but the following year I didn't get the tenure I was expecting, and my white head of department—he's dead now, so I can mention him—went to inquire, came back and said, "Sammy, get out of the country. The police are investigating you and the boycott."