Footballers in South Africa respond to xenophobic attacks28 February 2017

FollowingaspateofxenophobicattacksagainstforeignersSouthAfricanfootballershavelaunchedaninitiativetodemonstrateunityduringwhatarebeingcalledtheSocialCohesionGames.

Throughout this month migrants, often from other African countries, have been targeted in the suburbs of cities such as Pretoria and Johannesburg, where shops and businesses have been attacked.

Some officials fear a repeat of the xenophobic violence of 2008, when at least 60 people were killed.

The Cohesion Games will involve 768 players from across Africa in 64 teams. The finals will be played on the 5th March with former professional players from across Africa, many of them stars from clubs in the Premier Soccer League (South African League), they include William Okpara, Roger Fetumba, Kalusha Bywala, Timothy Bathabire, Innocent Chikoya, and Patrick Maverick.

South African players including Jomo Sono, Disco Makua, Doctor Khumalo, Brian Baloyi, Kennedy Makara, Thapelo Liau and Portia Modise will also be involved.

Many of the players have been brought together by the South African Players Union (SAFPU).

The Premier (Governor) of Guateng David Makhura, who is supporting the event, said: “Football is a common denominator in Gauteng, on the continent and the world. By combining different nationalities in one provincial tournament, we can, in a small but significant manner, assist in unifying our province.

“The recent attacks on xenophobia are senseless acts of violence and the events of previous years where foreigners were killed and displaced cannot be repeated now.”

Fare support
Piara Powar offered the support of the Fare network, “As most South Africans know xenophobia and hate is not a solution to economic disempowerment, our experience in many countries shows that football can offer a symbolic way of bringing people together. We applaud SAFPU and Premier Makhura of Guateng in starting for their work in bringing players together

Background to the attacks
As one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, South Africa draws migrants who come to work or to escape violence. The unemployment rate in South Africa is over 25%, with migrants often blamed for the situation. Xenophobic violence frequently targets small shops and businesses run by migrants, with common claims that they hide illegal activity.

Last week the Nigerian Government urged the South African government to put in place measures to end the incessant xenophobic attacks on Nigerians with the South Africa High Commissioner to Abuja being summoned over the matter. Nigerian buildings, properties and places of worship worth millions of dollars were attacked by South Africans earlier this month.

Supplied by Action Images / Liu Yang