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Raymond Hack, the proud patriot of SA sport

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From football to athletics, swimming, cycling, and even boxing, Raymond Hack has dedicated much of his life to the administration of multiple sporting disciplines. This year’s Art, Sport, Science, and Culture Award winner, Hack says he will continue to be involved in sport for as long as he’s able.

Described by activist and sports administrator Dr Sam Ramsamy as a “genuine patriot”, Hack has played a pivotal role in South Africa’s proud sporting history. “He’s a great ambassador, not only for South Africa’s Jewish community, but probably for the Jewish community worldwide, and he carries that flag proudly,” said the chief executive of Golden Gloves, Rodney Berman, Hack’s long-time business and personal associate. “As importantly or maybe more importantly, he carries the South African flag proudly.”

Hack looked back on being involved with the 2010 FIFA World Cup with pride. “I’ve never seen a country so passionate, so together as it was during 2010,” he said. “It was an unbelievable experience. The people I worked with were fantastic. I always said that I was the luckiest person in the world to be chief executive of SAFA [the South African Football Association]. I didn’t have one coach for the national team, I had 62 million people who were the coaches for the national team.”

Joking that Hack has to wear a name tag for his wife whenever he comes home so she can recognise him, Berman said his friend was on a plane virtually every day. “He’ll go to Azerbaijan for day, come back, get on the plane to Scotland. He’s a total enigma.” Hack is passionate about travel, having been to almost every country in Africa through his work on the disciplinary committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), and around the world through the many administrative roles he’s held.

Hack is also an arbiter for the Court of Arbitration for Sport, an international body that oversees the ultimate decision-making process in sport, and is respected by international organisations including the likes of FIFA and CAF.

Accepting his award, Hack spoke of the unifying power of sport. “Sport is the only thing that brings everybody together without thinking about anything negative,” he said. “Those were the words of Nelson Mandela, who said, only sport can bring a country, can bring a people, can bring a nation together.” Yet Hack also acknowledged the words of politician and activist Steve Tshwete, who said that you have to make sure that that happens.

Paying tribute to sports “trailblazer” Sam Ramsamy; “Mr Boxing” Rodney Berman; and Irvin Khoza, with whom he helped form the Premier Soccer League, Hack discussed the lessons they taught him. “All three of those gentlemen have always said, never, ever follow. Create your own path. If you [do so], you’ll be able to ensure that people will follow, and you’ll leave that legacy. That’s something that has stood by me.”

Hack thanked his wife of nearly 50 years, without whom he said he would never have been able to chase his passion. He also acknowledged the support of his three children. “I’ve been able to do sport for the past 55 years because of my love for it,” he said, “and I want to say to everybody here, if you have a love and a passion, follow that passion. If you wake up in the morning and you don’t want to go to work, you’re in the wrong job. Sport isn’t a job, sport is a love, it’s a passion.”

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