Sport On TV: Mole in protest movement but other side dug up dirt


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The Independent Online

So the sporting protest is alive and well – though cuffing yourself to the goalpost because Ryanair won't give your daughter a job is not quite the same as the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa. What next? A mass demonstration against EasyJet's excess baggage policy?

Peter Hain's Stop the Tour campaign of 1969-70 was certainly no flight of fancy. As The World Against Apartheid: Fair Play (BBC4, Tuesday) demonstrated, sport was South Africa's "only connection with the outside world". In rugby parlance, he hit them where it hurts. Hain's activists are to be applauded for their bravery, not so much for standing up to John Vorster's regime but for daring to take the field and run amok among 15 huge Springboks.

Some of their tactics in disrupting the Bok tour of England were groundbreaking in more ways than one. There was the girl who glued up all the locks of the players' hotel bedrooms, the driver who left them in a field near Hemel Hempstead, and a man who bred rabbits and released them from sacks on to the pitch.

As with any decent underground movement, another chap was breeding moles to unleash upon Old Trafford. There was even a debate about which would be more effective: moles or locusts. It sounds like a midfield conundrum for Fergie: moles or Scholes? Pigs or Giggs? And there must have been many a time when United's players have wanted the ground to open up beneath them.

The South African government responded to the rabbits-out-of-sacks routine with a few dirty tricks of their own, including trying to frame Hain for stealing £440 from Barclays in Putney using a lookalike. When you are up against that level of, literally, counter-intelligence, you know you're on the right side.

Director Connie Field also focused on the battle to have South Africa banned from the Olympics and New Zealand's role in supporting Bok tours. Yet sadly there was no mention of cricket and the pivotal role played by Basil D'Oliveira, whose memorial service was held last week.

Claims of racism have bedevilled football this season in an unwelcome return to darker days. Another form of prejudice which is regarded as virulent in the game is homophobia. The late Justin Fashanu remains the only openly homosexual player in the English game, and Britain's Gay Footballers (BBC3, Monday) saw his niece Amal explore why the subject is so taboo. The conversation with her father John told her all she needed to know. More than a decade since Justin's death, he remains excruciatingly trenchant in his condemnation of his brother.

The attitude of others is, however, more liberated. OK, so the only people who would talk to her were Joey Barton and the Millwall squad. But the Leeds fans chanting "We can see you holding hands" at the Brighton faithful is genuinely funny rather than deeply shocking, and Darren Purse said: "They'd be happy if there was that sort of banter in the dressing-room because it means that they had been accepted."

Barton derided the commonplace view of "all kinds of shenanigans going on in the dressing-room". One wonders if players might not be far more worried to see someone who stubs cigars out in his team-mates' eyes wandering into the room.