You hear it in bars across the country. “Come on Ref!”. You hear it on the side of school boy rugby fields on crisp Saturday mornings in Cape Town “Oh come on, that’s shocking ref!”.
For a nation that is so driven by and passionate about sport, South Africa sure seems to always have a problem with not only the rules, but how they are enforced. This has bred a culture of non-stop questioning of officiating decisions, and an expectation that match officials have an agenda against the “Rainbow Nation”.
South African sport spent decades in the shadows due to the Apartheid regime, and for good reason. The nations across the world did not want to be associated with an authoritative police state that was run by white supremacists. This relegated South African sports people to compete amongst themselves, and grow resentment to the outside sporting world.
With the changing of the political tides in the early 1990s, South Africa began being given a probationary period on the world sporting stage, with South African cricket, rugby, soccer and athletics being welcomed back to the competitive fray. And so began the manifestation of “poor officiating”, that many a South African fan would claim was reserved only for South African teams or competitors.
Slowly but surely this victim culture began to develop. It started small, and some could say it started as a method of intimidation. A scare tactic to try and influence decisions to go the way of the green and gold.
Then more and more people started jumping on the bandwagon. It became more and more convenient to blame a poor performance on the referee than it did on the team or an individual. You see, South Africa revere their sports stars. They can do no wrong.
Hansie Cronje, the famous South African cricket captain who pledged guilty for match fixing is still revered as a national hero. Eben Etzebeth, a South African rugby player who made headlines for racially abusing a caddie on a golf course is still thought to be a national hero. The list is endless.
Even South African Bookmakers are famous for giving South African teams higher odds to win than plenty of other betting operators in other countries. This goes to show how thick of a blanket South Africans are pulling over their heads.
The culmination of this has come with the South African Football Association making an appeal to FIFA after they lost to Ghana in a round of world cup qualifiers. South Africa have a poor track record against Ghana with regard to soccer, which is evidence of the victim culture at play in full flight.
Another case was with South African director of rugby Rassie Erasmus’ comments on poor officiating, which led him to receive a ban from the International Rugby Union. Rassie Erasumus is one of the most respected rugby coaches in the world, and has never had issues with officiating in the past. He comes back to South Africa, and he falls under the influence of the rampant victim culture.
Sports rules are enforced by professionals who are under immense scrutiny. Week in and out, if they don’t perform, their livelihoods are at stake. A lifetime spent on training, learning, and keeping up to date with rules is the culmination of being a referee at the top level. If they call a bad game, their reputation is ruined.
The victim culture in South Africa is rooted in the reverement of their sporting idols, who have been placed on a pedestal, capable of doing no wrong, which has in turn led to a poor reputation across the world.