The Eudy: a new global sports award
Some might charge me with politicizing Football – but here I go, here I go, here I go …
With the last places being filled for the 2010 Football World Cup in Sth Africa, I’d like to propose a new international FIFA award, to be launched at the opening ceremony next year- the Eudy.
The Eudy would be the short name for the Eudy Simelane Leadership Award and for the foreseeable future it should be awarded for ‘Outstanding Contribution by a Male Footballer to the Campaign to End Violence Against Women’.
Eudy Simelane once played as midfielder and captain of the Sth African Women’s Football team. Retired from the team, but aged only 31, she was gang raped, beaten, stabbed 25 times and left dead, face down, in a stream in April 2008, in the township of Kwa Thema near Johannesburg.
In Sth Africa there is, it is reported, a quaint practice known as ‘penis correction’. Some Sth African men take it upon themselves to ‘cure’ lesbians by raping them.
It is believed that Eudy was subjected to such a curative intervention and then murdered. She had made the mistake of not keeping her sexual orientation a secret.
Now when I say ‘some’ Sth African men, I am being polite. According to a report on Eudy’s death, and the on the broader issue of rape of lesbians, by Bruce Loudon in the Australian (26-27 Sept), 500,000 women are raped each year in Sth Africa.
One in four men admits to having committed rape. As elsewhere around the world, the vast majority of rapes don’t go to trial (80%), and only 4% of those that do lead to a conviction.
I have on many occasions experienced a sense of shame in being male. I think the first time was watching a dramatized rape on TV as a boy.
The second was when my step-father beat my mother to a pulp one night in a drunken frenzy and I had to shield her and throw him out of our home. Reading the story of Eudy’s rape and murder, and learning of the phenomenon of corrective rape was another such occasion.
I think one aspect of what it means to be human is to strive to transcend our selfish, baser selves, and to build our identity and behavior, and our common culture, around our higher selves.
For half the population – men – a good part of that striving relates to forging relationships with women based on respect rather than dominance.
I am sympathetic to the view that, in the purest form of the single athletic test, or the basic contest between two sports teams, politicization is an unacceptable intrusion on the athlete’s or player’s personal quest to be all she or he can be.
But when it comes to an international sports body like FIFA, we are dealing with an institution that cannot and should not avoid a role in shaping communal, indeed global, values and culture. To its credit, it has taken up that role in the fight against racism.
Rugby played a part in ending Apartheid and winning freedom for Sth Africa’s majority population. Perhaps Football could play a part in winning freedom for women from sexual predation and violence, by establishing the Eudy – and given the reach of Football and the World Cup, not just Sth African women.
Footnote – Based on what I’ve read in the media, I would of course understand if Sth African Football officials felt it appropriate for President Zuma not to have a role in that part of the ceremony allocated for the presentation of the Eudy.
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