Posts Tagged ‘Green Point Stadium’

FIFA World Cup 2010 Racism In Soccer Victim of the Apartheid Era In South Africa

FIFA World Cup 2010 Racism In Soccer Victim of the Apartheid Era In South Africa

Bafana Bafana did their best but could not overcome the legacy of apartheid on the field against France today. Wow they had an open goalmouth begging to be fed on at least four occasions. Yes, they made history by beating France. France is ranked ninth and South Africa is ranked 83 rd in the FIFA/Coca Cola rankings. They won the game, lost the competition, and made history by being the first host team in 80 years to bow out in the first round. Let me put this history into perspective in order to explain and not excuse the bowing out of South Africa in the first round of the World Cup competition.

During the apartheid era soccer was a Cinderella sport in the political mindset of the day. Yes we had the National Football League for white teams. I remember with fondness the derbies between Cape Town City and Hellenic. My brother and I were avid Hellenic diehards. My cousin Lionel and maybe the rest of our town were Cape Town City supporters. They played at Hartleyvale and Green Point Stadium, respectively. Green Point Stadium of 2010 fame and glory is on the same site as the Green Point Stadium of old. I remember the annual Easter Monday game between arch rivals Hellenic and Highlands Park at Balfour Park. I remember the import of third league European players to come and play for the NFL teams, our “first league”.

The point that I am trying to make is that while the white NFL was flourishing no infrastructure was developed in the townships. Athlone Stadium arrived on the soccer scene in Cape Town very, very late. The birth of soccer as we know it today in South Africa was one of intense complications during labor and delivery. Many noble endeavors to kick start soccer were aborted or still born to say the least. Racism was at the core of this imbalance in the development of soccer in South Africa. How fitting that the mantra of this world cup is to end racism in sport.

Rugby was largely seen as the game that white people play and soccer was seen as the game black people play. The South African Rugby Football Union was not only well endowed, financially, but had world class sport stadiums even during the apartheid era. As youngsters we had to hone our soccer playing skills in the street at risk of being hit by oncoming traffic. The police was always on our case, disrupting our game and hitting us with batons. Even the local field where club soccer was played was fraught with hazards caused by a lack of maintenance. I worked in both Cape Town and Johannesburg and the soccer fields for people other than white in both provinces were a shame. You often sprained your ankle because you tramped on a big rock or you grazed your skin on the rock hard playing surfaces.

Did we expect that this apartheid ill will not have consequences? Soccer is still in its infancy in South Africa and yet the boys are doing great things. Most of them are first generation soccer players for the national team while other countries have third and fourth generation players. They even have coaches whose sons are playing for the national teams.

Sekunjalo! It is what it is. South Africa will get there. Soccer glory will become institutionalized in South Africa. Players will develop those skills, strategies and the spirit to win games and glory.