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A night out with the winners

Learn and Teach got a letter the other day. The letter was from Sacos – the South African Council of Sport. They were inviting us to the Sacos “sportsperson of the year” party.

We were very excited. We thought of all the good things there would be at the party – lots of food and booze and smart people. Maybe there was also going to be some dancing.

Everyone In the office went mad. Everyone wanted that one ticket. Soon everyone was fighting – they all wanted a good time.

I was the lucky one. I won the battle of the ticket. The ticket was a bit torn but what did I care? I was going to be with all the other winners.

So, on the 9th November, at eight o’clock on the dot, I was there – at Cathedral Place in Doornfontein. Even my mother didn’t know me, I looked so smart. Sacos people were at the door, shaking hands and welcoming everyone. I said to myself: “Ja, you are in good company tonight.”


The party started at about nine o’clock. The President of Sacos, Frank van der Horst, was the first person to speak.

“Tonight is the second time we are having awards since our beginning in 1973,” said Mr van der Horst. “Over these last twelve years our beliefs have not changed. Only our numbers have changed more and more people are joining Sacos. We still say no to sport where the colour of your skin is important. And we say no to sport tours in South Africa – no tours until there is no more apartheid in South Africa.

“We say to this government: ‘ Lift the state of emergency’. ‘How can we play sport while people are getting killed and hurt in the townships? Tonight our vice­ president, Joe Ebrahim, sits alone in a cell. His two sons are also in detention. And so are many of our players. People are dying every­ day. We cannot play sport at such a time.”

The next speaker was the president of the Tennis association, Mr A. Fortuin. He told us that the government has many bad laws. He said that in South Africa there is only one race, the human race. The people loved that. They clapped and shouted in agreement. I’m sure their friends in Cape Town heard them.


After the speeches we all ate snacks. The food was not fancy but it was good. People were now getting excited. We were soon going to find out who was the sports person of the year. I felt a bit sorry for the judges who had to choose the winner. Sacos has champions in so many different sports.

Just for example, there is 12 year old Rushdie Warley. Rushdie is a champion swimmer. This young boy gets up at 5.30 every morning and trains for 2.5 hours. Then he trains again after school in the afternoon. It is no wonder he is a champion.

Another champion is Charmaine Carolissen. She is a big tennis player. Charmaine has won so many tennis tournaments that she cannot remember how many. Many clubs want Charmaine to leave her Sacos club and play for them. But Charmaine says no to them all.

But the night belonged to a table tennis player, Cheryl Roberts. Sacos chose her as the sportperson of the year because they say: “Cheryl is a walking advert for us.” Cheryl has already won 65 table tennis titles.

But Cheryl does not only play table tennis. She works for Sacos too. She is starting a cricket club in her home town. And she is also helping friends with softball. And that is not all. Cheryl also teaches people to play table tennis and she writes the table tennis newsletter for the whole country. Cheryl is very busy. But that night, she was not too busy to talk to us.


“Why do you love Sacos so much?” we asked Cheryl.

“Because I believe in non-racial sport,” she said quickly, like she was hitting a quick backhand to my soft serve.

I tried some topspin. “Why don’t you go and play for teams that don’t belong to Sacos?” I asked, hoping that she would not return it.

But Cheryl came back with a smashing reply. “I am not just worried about prizes, bats and balls,” said Cheryl. “If I help in Sacos, I am helping to build a better South Africa. That’s why I only play for Sacos.”


Cheryl had won the day. Now it’s time to relax, I thought. I sat down – it didn’t seem like there was going to be dancing. Some people read poems, others played music and sang. The K-team Fosatu choir sang and then there were some short plays afterwards. I must say I enjoyed it all.

Before I knew it, it was nearly twelve o’clock and everyone was getting ready to go home – every one except me. Then I heard someone say: “Don’t these Learn and Teach people ever go home?” I grabbed my things and headed for the door.


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