One of the coaches I am working with came into the office yesterday and asked if I could help him draft a letter of invitation for a tournament he is organizing. Formal letters of invitations are a fairly common occurrence here and I still haven't developed the literary skills to pull off such a letter, so I suggested the coach write a draft of the letter in Sesotho and then I would print it out on my computer.
He took a couple of minutes to write the invitation and then passed it over to me. My Sesotho still isn’t that great so as I was typing it up I would only pick up the occasional word or phrase. At the end of the letter, where you have the complimentary close – such as ‘sincerely yours’ (I actually had to do a google search to find the appropriate term for this) the coach had written ‘Oa Hao Lipapaling’. I recognized this pretty quickly as meaning ‘Yours in Sport’. I am not sure if this is a common way to close a letter in other parts of the world, but it resonated with me immediately because of a book I recently read during the World Cup.
While I was travelling around South Africa for the World Cup I used the time to stock up on some books. Fittingly, I ended up purchasing a number of books relating to soccer in Africa. I read two during the World Cup – ‘Feet of the Chameleon’ and ‘Football United’.
Both were quite good. The chapters covered a variety of stories relating to soccer in different African countries. Another book that I bought, but didn’t read until I returned to Lesotho was called ‘More than Just a Game’. It told the story of how the prisoners on Robben Island – the prison that was used during apartheid to hold political prisoners – organized and ran their own soccer league for a number of years. It detailed the struggle that they had to go through to have the ability to play and then how the league itself became a political tool for the prisoners in their negotiations for better living conditions.
The league was very well organized and incredibly formal. The author theorized that the inmates were governing their soccer league the way they expected their country to be governed. All correspondence had to be done through written means, which wasn’t easy since paper was difficult to access. At the end of each letter the sender would finish with the complimentary close ‘Yours in Sport’. Before reading this book I had never come across this expression, but when I read the Sesotho version of it I couldn’t help but smile.
Oa Hao Lipapaling
September 9, 2010