Sunday, September 13, 2009

World Cup? What World Cup?

Here we are, less than nine months from kickoff in South Africa of the world's biggest sports event, and what are the host country's newspapers preoccupied with?

The gender issues surrounding an 800-meter runner.

Maybe the World Cup isn't as big as we think it is.

The Web site at every significant South African newspaper I could find ... has the travails of Caster Semenya as its lead sports story. Often, it is the lead story. Of any sort. Not just in sports.

Semenya was hailed as a national hero when she won the women's 800-meter run in world-record time at the track and field World Championships in Berlin last month.

Then came revelations from the international track and field federation (IAAF) that it would investigate claims that Semenya is not a woman.

South Africa went ... oh, nuts. One minister accused the IAAF of racism in focusing on an African athlete.

The story was propelled forward sharply when an Australian newspaper reported that scans showed that Semenya has no ovaries or uterus but does have "internal testes."

South Africa's sports minister promised to go to "war" in defense of Semenya, according to the Johannesburg Sunday Times. Which is fairly intense language.

Also, the president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, came to the defense of Semenya, saying the media had invaded Semenya's privacy.

And now the South Africa media reports that Semenya "has dropped out of sight" as the story keeps churning along.

The World Cup? You might think South African newspapers and media would find interest in the four teams that qualified for 2010 over the past week, or the trouble that Argentina and Portugal find themselves in ... but, no.

It's all Caster Semenya, all the time. And even the World Cup is being pushed into the background until the issue is resolved -- if it ever is.

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