Segregation in Sports

Mauritius Times 60 Years Ago

2nd Year No 66 – Friday – 11th November 1955

• “Borrow trouble for yourself, if that’s your nature, but don’t
lend it to your neighbours” — Kipling

Last week we published a letter from a number of young people interested in football who deplored the absence of Ellahee from Team A and who expressed the fear that he had been a victim of racial discrimination. Our correspondents are not the only persons to hold such views. It would therefore be in the interest of sports in general if the Mauritius Sports Association could take the trouble of allaying the dissatisfaction. The MSA seems to have turned a deaf ear to the request of our correspondents up to now. Should it persist in maintaining this attitude, football will cease to be a clean and sane sport.

We did not expect, of course, that the Natal team would be a team of black and white players. People who look down upon black people in their own country cannot be expected to rub shoulders with them in another country. It is quite natural for the white to make the black work in their factories and fields, and even in their homes and kitchens. But they have not yet learnt to play with them and so segregation had to raise its ugly head when the Natal team was chosen to be sent here.

In Mauritius, those responsible for the selection of our players have been careful enough not to have exclusive white teams — although the backbone is thoroughly white. It is not hard to imagine that the Natal players must be feeling ill at ease to play with a team which is not exclusively white. But once that they condescended to play, would they have resented if some more coloured players were taken?

It is not our intention to have communal representation in sports or elsewhere. We stand for skill and we stand for merit. If we are advocating the cause of non-whites separately, it is because there is a general feeling that justice has not been done to them and they have been denied fair play.

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From football which is one of the most popular sports in Mauritius, let us turn our attention to horse-racing which appeals no less to the public. It is the “gentlemen riders” meeting of last Saturday that prompts us to speak of racing.

The races had been organised by the recently-formed “Club Hippique de l’Ile Maurice” whose members belong to the white community only. We have come to take it for granted in this island that only white people can belong to clubs connected with racing because of the traditional exclusion of non-whites from The Mauritius Turf Club and The Mauritius Jockey Club. Non-whites may own horses and win races. They may go as far as the track and the Tribunes. But no further. The doors of all the clubs are closed to them. They have to put up with segregation. It is wonderful how they enjoy themselves by swallowing their pride and self-respect.

Now bearing all this in mind, let us consider the last meeting. The ‘gentlemen riders’ were all members of the Club Hippique with the exception of Mr Besson and Mr Ramdin, and these two gentlemen had to compete in the last race with four members of the Club. Mr Besson, a practised rider, won the race and Mr Ramdin came second on a horse that has been withdrawn from the track. The victory of Mr Ramdin becomes brighter when we think that he is just a lad of about seventeen. His skill must have suppressed many laughs and jeers. Not only this, it is generally believed that Mr Ramdin’s victory made the MBS lose its voice.

The racing season is to an end. As far as we know, all the races have been reported with much gusto and without any hitch. But last Saturday it had to be otherwise. The four races preceding the race in question came over the air. But just as the turn of Mr Besson and Mr Ramdin came to be honoured, the speaker announced that the race could not be recorded owing to an electricity cut. Coupure du courant! How nice it sounds! But, Mr Speaker, you won’t wipe out so easily the bad impression the MBS has created.

* * *

We are fond in Mauritius of giving national names to our organisations. If only we could live up to the names!

We have no quarrel with the Club Hippique de l’Ile Maurice or the Mauritius Turf Club or the Mauritius Jockey Club. We simply deplore their attitude towards non-whites.

We don’t want, however, to be so indifferent to the Mauritius Sports Association. We feel that this body will die if segregation infects it. And as we want it to live and flourish we appeal to those responsible for its running to act as true sportsmen.

Just because of some bad association with the Journée Populaire, that race meeting has become one of the most ordinary by losing its splendour and national character. People who depend on gate-money to run their shows would do well to learn a lesson from that.

Finally, the MBS people must not forget that Radio Maurice is no more. A government concern is not the right place where the voice of any community should predominate. If the aim of our local radio station is to educate, inform and entertain it must take to its task without any bias or prejudice. And it must make provisions for electricity cuts when recording if it is not to be blamed for inefficiency, lack of foresight and segregation.

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