San Francisco State University
Keegan Medrano is an M.A. graduate in World History and Gender Studies with an emphasis on whiteness, masculinities, and the body in 20th and 21st century Southern Africa with the purpose of deconstructing white power structures and refining white allyship. At Sports Africa 2018, Keegan presented on concepts of ableism and masculinity surrounding a former South African rugby player who developed ALS and they have also written and presented about white politics, childhood, and conscription. In approximately 48 hours and 5000 miles away they will be traveling to Grahamstown to present on Frederik van Zyl Slabbert and discourses of the male body at the Southern African Historical Society’s conference.
Bafana, the boys, τα αγόρια: white (South African) footballers, ‘reverse transformation’, and recolonizing the pitch
“Africa won the World Cup” quipped South African comedian Trevor Noah, just a few hours after French President Emmanuel Macron dabbed with captain Paul Pogba after France’s comprehensive World Cup victory. Noah’s joke triggered outcry from many in France representing the enduring fixation on the race/nationality status of national team footballers and the xenophobia and racist outrage reserved for players who ‘pollute’ the team selection pool of purportedly liberal Western societies. Whether decried as “opportunism” or because of a “lack of quality,” by pundits, former players, and fans, the act of changing one’s nationality involves ethnonationalist rhetoric utilizing white supremacist notions of race, masculinity, and citizenship status to maintain the purity of national football teams and to communicate the struggle of white Europe. Moreover, the change in status often occurs along well-established colonial circuits exposing not only the contemporary white supremacist xenophobia of European countries, but also the violent, oppressive colonial histories and its embodiment in the players. While Europe struggles to accept its footballers of color, South Africa’s Bafana Bafana led by coach Stuart Baxter has taken the dramatic step of reinstating Dean Furman and trekking across Europe in an attempt to woo Tom Barkhuizen, Andrew Surman, Joel Untersee, and Panagiotis Retsos, all white footballers, to join the squad. Baxter’ argued that his attempts to include more white players was about quality, but his actions ignited a debate around reverse transformation in Bafana Bafana, white supremacist rhetoric, and the stunting of Black South African footballing development. The potential for white South Africans, white expatriates, and South African-descended whites to represent Bafana Bafana represents a reconfiguration of the nationality status debate that reflects the recentering of white players, settler colonial and apartheid histories, and the fraught race, gender, and nationality dynamics of South African society.