The 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted for the first time in Africa on South African soil is generally regarded as having been a successful global sporting event. This issue of Agenda looks at the event retrospectively and presents a range of contributions by writers who offer gender analysis and critique of the sports mega-event.

The FIFA World Cup was afterall a 100% masculine international and corporate competition. The issue includes a range of contributions who offer different perspectives of the construction of the event, highlighting how indeed the FIFA World  Cup can be understood as being gendered. Writers take up strongly the masculinist positioning of the FIFA Games as a feminist issue where women were either seen as peripheral, as cheerleaders or as providers of sexual services for soccer players and tourists.

Chandre Gould’s analysis of official reports of several World Cup matches questions the legitimacy of fear mongering around trafficking in women and children that routinely precedes such events. While noting the seriousness of trafficking, Gould observes that very few incidents were reported by police. A report on Sex Worker Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) campaign by Marlise Richter and Dianne Massawe to raise the profile of sex workers’ health and legal rights reflects that attempts to secure commitments from FIFA, Government and national HIV/AIDS structures to put in place a moratorium against the arrest of sex workers, these were never implemented. A Hot-line for sex workers during the event was initiated by sex-workers and SWEAT themselves to protect their rights.

The Commission on Gender Equality offers an important assessment of the problems that events such as the World Cup pose for women – including sex workers’ recognition, alerts on trafficking in women and children, gender stereotyping and biased media coverage, unequal tender procedures, and the problematic eviction of women traders who are breadwinners in poor households without alternatives – and offers recommendations for the planning of future FIFA Games so that gender inequalities and injustices raised in their assessment are not perpetuated.

Looking at the economic aspect of the World Cup, Urmilla Bob and Kamilla Swart analyse spectatorship and women’s spend and conclude that women, locally and as tourists, seem to be for the first time being taken seriously as soccer spectators at the stadiums and at fan parks. Writing about the social and economic costs of hosting the Games to the urban poor, Nora Wintour reports on the World Class Cities For ALL Campaign which opposed the loss of economic benefits to informal traders as a result of the FIFA regulations in the host cities. Gender Links, reports on media programmes that it organised as part of its campaign, “Score a Goal for Gender Equality”, highlighting how women played their part in the hosting of the event, even if this was not recognised by FIFA.

Turning to women and men’s participation in sport which the FIFA World Cup brought to the foreground, several writers highlight women’s exclusion from the game. Newman Wadesango, Severino Machingambi, Gladys Ashu and Regis Chireshe write that feminists and gender activists identify the mega-event as an example of male hegemony (domination) which unfolded with men unproblematically located at the centre, while the existing social inequities experienced by women were re-inforced. They question the exclusion of women from FIFA structures and from sports administration more broadly. Mari Haugaa Engh’s Briefing offers a fasinating view of the national women’s soccer team Banyana Banyana’s who have more than once outshone the men’s team Bafana Bafana, but who nonetheless while being hailed as stars resisted criticism that they should behave like ‘ladies’ and dress appropriately, have fought to get the women’s game back out of the sidelines into the centre field. The struggle for non-racial sport under apartheid is recalled by Farieda Khan who relates the history of Black women’s tennis in Cape Town, and the lack of official support to compete and questions why women’s tennis is still under resourced. Marizanne Grundlingh’s research on a Stellenbosch women’s soccer side highlights how women’s soccer is not fully accepted as a women’s sport and the resulting tensions that the players experience around gender and identity.

A letter written by gender activist and social commentator on sport Cheryl Roberts to the Portfolio committee on Sport and Recreation included in the issue protests over the marginalisation of women in South African sports. As we went to press with the issue the Department of Sports and Recreation issued a statement to Agenda that it is moving forward with a long awaited plan to address gender equality and demands that go back to 2006 raised by women in sport are being tabled for discussion and action.

For more information:


Elaine Salo  Guest Editor of the issue
Telephone – 012-4205323  074 1295996

Venitha Pillay Guest Editor of the issue
Telephone – 012 420 5574

Lou Haysom Consulting editor for Agenda
Telephone 031-3047002

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