Long wait over as Beukes re­ceives recog­ni­tion at last

Blocked by apartheid, ten­nis player fi­nally rep­re­sents SA

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - JA­NIS KIN­N­EAR

HAV­ING not had the op­por­tu­nity to progress to the high­est level as a ten­nis player dur­ing apartheid be­cause she was clas­si­fied as “coloured”, 47-year-old Zaida Beukes will now set things right, trav­el­ling to Florida in the US next year as part of the South African na­tional ten­nis team, for the first time.

But the long-awaited “hon­our”, says Western Prov­ince Ten­nis pres­i­dent Beukes, will also be a per­sonal trib­ute to her fa­ther, Martin Mally, who died four months ago, at 79.

“He taught me the game and he com­peted only as part of the na­tional team at the age of 75 in Aus­tralia. He had a hip re­place­ment and even­tu­ally died of a heart at­tack.”

At eight, she was prac­ti­cally “forced into” ten­nis, as her par­ents played league matches and wanted her to start play­ing when they had to field a ju­nior team. De­spite ex­celling, she could only at­tain a cer­tain level un­der the-then sports gov­ern­ing body, the SA Coun­cil on Sport ( Sacos), which was a non-racial sports fed­er­a­tion es­tab­lished in 1973.

For­mer di­rec­tor of the UN Cen­tre against Apartheid Enuga Sreeni­va­sulu Reddy wrote in a 2004 trib­ute to Sacos found­ing mem­ber Sam Ram­samy – archived at the Univer­sity of KwaZulu-Natal – that the body was “un­com­pro­mis­ing” on apartheid, and said there could be “no nor­mal sport in an ab­nor­mal so­ci­ety”.

“Lead­ers of Sacos suf­fered per­se­cu­tion, but re­fused to be in­tim­i­dated.”

Reddy said Ram­samy worked to es­tab­lish re­la­tions be­tween other sports fed­er­a­tions, which also lob­bied for the equal rights of non-white sports­men and -women.

Beukes, who coaches chil­dren from dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds part­time, says that while black peo­ple now had the free­dom to com­pete at any level, un­der­priv­i­leged young­sters with huge po­ten­tial of­ten lost out be­cause of a lack of ex­po­sure and money.

“There has been huge growth at the de­vel­op­ment hubs where I coach, es­pe­cially Mitchells Plain, and there’re so many ta­lented kids in town­ships, but they can’t af­ford to progress to a pro­fes­sional level.” The hubs aim to of­fer them fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance, with en­try fees even at ju­nior level start­ing at R150.

Now her jour­ney with the sport­ing code will see her fly to Florida in April, af­ter re­ceiv­ing an of­fi­cial no­ti­fi­ca­tion to com­pete as part of the na­tional ten­nis side.

She will com­pete at the In­ter­na­tional Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion Se­niors World Team Cham­pi­onships and the ITF In­di­vid­ual Cham­pi­onships, which is hosted at the Palm Beach Gar­dens from April 19 to May 4.

To qual­ify for the na­tional ten­nis team, play­ers must have par­tic­i­pated in a cer­tain num­ber of ranked tour­na­ments, na­tional games and in­ter­provin­cial events.

Beukes is now try­ing to raise funds for her over­seas trip, which will cost around R30 000.

Beukes, a for­mer school teacher, works at Pollsmoor’s re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion workshop at the Adult Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing sec­tion, where she teaches in­mates to read and write. She also teaches ten­nis to in­mates, and war­dens and their chil­dren who live on the prison grounds.

De­spite the long hours spent coach­ing, Beukes says train­ing chil­dren re­mains the most re­ward­ing part of her ten­nis ca­reer.

ja­nis.kin­n­ear@inl.co.za

PIC­TURE: LEON LESTRADE

RE­WARD­ING: Western Prov­ince Ten­nis pres­i­dent Zaida Beukes coaches young­sters at Pollsmoor Prison.

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