Johannesburg (AFP) – Former South Africa and Lazio star Mark Fish became embroiled in a social media storm Thursday over the Black Lives Matter movement, claiming: “If you stand for nothing you will fall for everything … all lives matter”.
It began when the centre-back, who helped South Africa win the Africa Cup of Nations for the only time in 1996, said he “liked” an anti-BLM tweet.
The tweet said Springbok 2019 World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi was an affirmative action appointment and criticised the national cricket and rugby bodies for backing BLM.
Fish later responded to another tweet by saying “if you stand for nothing you will fall for everything … all lives matter”.
In another tweet, Fish wrote that “I love all … no one is different … 2000 years ago Jesus ended the debate on which lives matter. He died for all.”
Fish also played for then English top-flight clubs Bolton Wanderers and Charlton Athletic before retiring in 2011 after four seasons with Johannesburg club Jomo Cosmos.
His tweets drew an angry response with many social media users accusing the one time favourite of South African football followers of racism.
The South African Football Association (Safa) said they wanted to “engage with Mark and find out what triggered the tweets that evoked such an angry response from South Africans”.
Safa later issued a statement supporting BLM and urging South Africans to “uproot all manifestations of discrimination in sport and society generally”.
Race is a hot topic in South African sport with two of the three most popular sports — cricket and rugby — accused for decades of discriminating against black players.
– Wearing black armbands –
Current national cricket team bowler Lungi Ngidi created headlines recently when he urged his teammates to back the BLM movement.
Several former white national team cricketers, including Boeta Dippenaar and Pat Symcox, objected to the call from Ngidi, arguing that “all lives matter”.
Ngidi was heeded, though, with all 24 black and white cricketers involved in an exhibition match last weekend near Pretoria wearing black BLM armbands.
Kolisi later joined the debate, saying racial inequality in South Africa needed to be addressed.
“It is time for all of us to change and actually start to live in a South Africa that so many people have fought for … so many people have died for.
“I felt my life did not matter since I was a little kid growing up in the townships.
“Until our lives matter, no lives matter. We are all important, black lives actually matter,” said the first black Test skipper of the Springboks.
Among those who back BLM are English Premier League footballers, who take a knee before each match kicks off since the season resumed after a coronavirus pandemic-induced suspension.
Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has also taken a knee before the start of each race so far this season.
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