There are two famous sayings which ring true, that come to mind when one considers that SASCOC have made a decision that the men’s and women’s hockey teams respectively, cannot and will not compete at the upcoming Olympics in Brazil. One by former America president Abraham Lincoln who once said “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” The second is by Chuck Jones who is the man who behind animation Looney Toons and the likes who ones said “When critics sit in judgment it is hard to tell where justice leaves off and vengeance begins.”
As we grow up we are taught to recognise and accept the decisions made by authorities and their roles in whichever sphere they may exist. However it is becoming increasingly difficult to assent to such expectations, especially in light of the fact that most of these decisions seem more and more illogical and unjust by the authorities of the day.
A simple analogy would be if a worldview were like a tree, our conclusions would be the leaves. A tree’s leaves don’t grow in thin air, they are attached to branches. The same is true of our ideas; conclusions aren’t derived from nothing. They are stuck to a deeper set of beliefs. But the branches of a tree do not float by themselves, either. They are attached to a trunk, which is attached to its roots. Without the roots, there’s no trunk, and certainly no leaves. Our ideas work the same way. Every conclusion is tied to a long chain of deeper premises.
In October 2015 SASCOC released a statement in which they acknowledged the unhappiness of both the men and women hockey teams at not qualifying for the Olympic games. They reiterated their position stating that the SASCOC Board firmly believes that the qualification criteria which have been agreed between the international sporting federations and the International Olympic Committee and based on World Olympic Qualification, is in line with SASCOC’s policy of producing world-class athletes who will compete at the highest levels.
So what is the goal of SASCOC policy and can it produce the intended results?
To put it simply the view is that SASCOC grew tired of taking huge contingent of competitors as this wasn’t yielding results thus decided to tighten their policy for selection. In doing so then only the competitors with a real chance of winning medals would be taken to Rio. This meant that our hockey teams would have to adapt to a revised international qualifying system regardless of their standing in other factors such as performance in the African Championships and overall world ranking.
It is common course that firstly, in both the men’s and women’s squads, almost two-thirds of the players will be 30 or younger in 2022 when we prospectively host the Common wealth games in Durban. The same players SASCOC will want to develop for 2022 are the same ones they will leave off the plane to Rio. Secondly, sending the teams to Rio would result in them getting critical international experience.
Looking at this from a logical perspective if the final goal is for these teams to perform well in 2020 and 2022 then surely trimming all the healthy branches isn’t going to serve a purpose as the leaves cannot stand on its own. There is no development that will take place by removing the pillars of experience and development from these teams.
It would be perhaps easier to accept SASCOCs position and views on the matter if there weren’t any other glaring extenuating factors which remain unanswered and leave one even more bewildered.
Firstly if SASCOCs position is to take only those competitors with a realistic chance of bringing back medals from RIO then one has to wonder, in terms of odds of bringing back medals home which teams are more likely to succeed?
Banyana Banyana and SA u23s or the men and women hockey teams? Consider that Banyana are going to the Olympic games ranked 54th having never been ranked lower than 50th and having been knocked out of the group stages in the 2012 Olympic games and having qualified at the African Championship for football and have never won a major trophy. Then consider Amaglug glug failed to qualify through African Championships on their last four attempts and have also never progressed passed the group stages and have never won a major trophy.
Compared to the SA Womens hockey team which is ranked 11th in the world and qualified for every single tournament they have had to qualify for and have been consistently finished between 10 and 13 in the Olympics and ranked number one in Africa and have won 8 major trophies. Compared also to the SA Mens hockey team which is ranked 15th and have qualified for most the Olympics and have won 8 major trophies.
Secondly it goes without mention that this is a stark and contrasting view which needs no one to ponder about which teams should be at the Olympics in Brazil and which teams shouldn’t be at the Olympics based on SASCOCs own vision of taking only the best teams to compete in Rio based on the probability of winning medals. So we can only respect their policy and criteria if it applied fairly and consistently throughout the scope.
SASCOC upon realising the glaring inconsistencies with their criteria should and can still relax their requirements allowing our hockey teams to go compete with the understanding that they would try beat their best 10th place finish. However if SASCOC is using this fallacy of a decision as a red herring to punish the teams for lack of transformation it is unfortunate because in all things logic and justice must prevail in their judgements or we may as well consider it a vengeance of sorts.
Our only hope is for the Minister of Sports to intervene but what are the chances? So please #mbalulafixthis as it is a an absolute mess
By Mncedi Mabona for Grit Sports