When people say they work in the South African sports industry, it can mean a number of things, from working as an administrator in a sports organisation to sitting behind a very powerful desk making big calls on where your company spend their marketing budget. But what I’ve realised recently is that you don’t need to be paid a salary by a sports-orientated company to be part of the sports industry of this country.
This concept really comes to the fore during tragic times. As South Africans, sport holds a special place in our hearts, it has united our country when we needed it most, it has divided us, which forces us to debate with each other, but somehow sport always has a way of bringing us back together.
In 2012 we lost a boxing legend, Corrie Sanders to criminal activity, which sent shockwaves through the country. I never met Corrie Sanders, but I didn’t have to to feel sad that we had lost a sporting hero.
Yesterday, we lost two more South African sportsmen to criminal activity. Again, I never met either Mr John E. Commins or Burry Stander, but yet both their losses still hit home. I have had business dealings with Mr Commins’ daughter Donne, who is undoubtedly the premier cricket manager in this country, and I feel extremely sad for her and her family for their loss. I have sat in Donne’s office while she has been on the phone to her dad and just hearing how she spoke so endearingly to him was amazing to witness.
When I heard the news of Burry Stander’s tragic death yesterday at the hands of what reportedly seems to be a hit and run while he was out doing what he loves, cycling, I didn’t need to have met him to feel the pain of his loss. Not only because I work in a company whose holding company plays a major role in the cycling industry in South Africa, but because I am a South African. What makes us South African, is that we treasure our sporting heroes – why else would I have been watching Burry competing at the Olympics when I don’t even know how to ride a bike?
As South Africans we fight for the underdog, we push youngsters to be the best, we criticise them when we don’t feel they’ve done their position justice, we feel their pain when their hard work doesn’t pay off and we celebrate their victories when it does.
You see, as South Africans, we all work in the sports industry, we’re just paid for our services in different ways.