THE RACE GAME: Sport and Politics in South Africa.


THE RACE GAME: Sport and Politics in South Africa

Author: Douglas Booth Published by: Frank Cass, Ilford, 1998, 280pp, 37.50 [pounds sterling] (hb), 17.50 [pounds sterling] (pb).

Most New Zealanders are aware of the South African National Party's policy of apartheid, of the effect that policy had on the playing of sport in the Republic, and of the international community's response to the challenge thrown down by such policies. Fewer are aware of Pretoria's various reactions, both internally and internationally, to avoid sporting isolation.

Douglas Booth's book on apartheid sport covers all of this, and much more. The conditions and attitudes which led to the development of apartheid and of apartheid sport were apparent long before the National Party's general election victory of 1948. Booth traces the development and changes in racial attitudes in South Africa, particularly with regard to sport, from the 19th century. He examines the origins of apartheid sport, its domestic and international impact, the development and changing role of the sports boycott, and the response, often tortuous and not infrequently intractable and perverse, of both the whites-only sports bodies and the South African government.

The conflicts in the 1980s and 1990s within the South African nonracial sports movement and the battles over the use of the Springboks emblem are also examined. Booth is careful to put the sporting story into its wider domestic South African political context. I particularly enjoyed his commentary and analysis of events in the period from the mid-1980s.

In the 1920s Workers' Union leader Clements Kadalie had declared `We natives ... have always given the game away ... we are dealing with rascals. The European are rascals.... There is no native problem, but a European problem of weakness, greed and robbery.' The story of apartheid sport is the story of weakness, greed and robbery.

Comprehensive, thorough, detailed, almost clinical in it analysis, The Race Game makes at times very depressing reading. With the revered, iconic status that Nelson Mandela now possesses internationally, it is easy to forget that even just a decade ago there were many mainstream politicians -- in Britain, New Zealand and elsewhere -- who were branding the ANC as...

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