The History of South African Football – Part 3

Memba Ben By Memba Ben, 5th Jul 2018 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Sports>Football (Soccer)

Part three of a series profiling the history of football within South Africa. This part will focus on the development of football in the midst of Apartheid.

Football and Politics

Up until 1948, the Union of South Africa had allowed social customs and law to govern the country. As mentioned, laws were still being upheld but for the most part, the Union left the actual governing to the elected heads of each ethnic group.

The majority of the ruling class was fine with the hands off approach but with the economic development happening in the backdrop of World War 2, black migrant workers came in large numbers to the major industrial centers in the city to compensate for the wartime shortfall of white labor, leading to a rise in black urbanization. The Union failed to address the issue which led to overcrowding and increased crime rates. At the same time, large majorities of the oppressed working in the urban areas were becoming disillusioned with the current state of affairs and began supporting a new generation of leaders who epitomized their beliefs.

In failing to address these issues, the support for the Union dwindled till it was dealt a death blow by the Afrikaner ethnic National Party who ran a campaign built on the highlighting the Unions failures and warned of "die swart gevaar" which played on the people’s fears about black urbanization and empowerment. The National Party promised a set of policies that would ensure that white domination would continue on and by using the populist rhetoric, the National Party swept aside the Union of South Africa by winning eight key constituencies and D.F Malan became the first Nationalist Prime Minister with the intent of carrying out the implementation of what would be known as Apartheid.

With Apartheid coming into effect, things went from bad to worse. Resources became more disproportionate than before, players and clubs couldn’t reach or achieve their potential due to the countless limitations set by the Apartheid laws and as a whole, inequality in South African football was at an all-time high.

In an effort to centralize and save finances, SAIFA, SACFA and SABFA merged to form the non-racial South African Soccer Federation (SASF) but because of the strict racial policies in effect, it became harder for SASF to run efficiently.

Things were already not looking good for the SASF when FIFA took things up a notch, readmitting FASA after a brief expulsion and by doing so legitimized them as the sole governing body of all things concerning football in South Africa.

Many African countries were sympathetic to the plight that oppressed South Africans faced from the Apartheid regime and repeatedly asked FIFA to expel FASA from its council but FIFA declined. In retaliation, CAF decided that so as long as The Apartheid government continued its racist policies, FASA wouldn’t have a place in the Confederation of Africa and as a result, South Africa was expelled from CAF in 1958.

Although the effects of Apartheid weighed heavily on the country, there were some positive breakthroughs. One of which was that FIFA forced FASA to remove some discriminatory clauses from its constitution as they conflicted with FIFAs anti-discriminatory rules about the game. This allowed David Julies and the late Steve "Kalamazoo" Mokone to go abroad and by doing so, became the first black South Africans to join European clubs (Dr Mokone would later become an executive at modern day SAFA).

While it was a step in the right direction, it still didn’t make sense why FIFA was upholding their anti-discrimination laws while at the same time, defending South Africa’s inclusion into the FIFA body.

The answers to FIFAs stance on the Apartheid issue would reveal that like footballers, FIFA is just as good when it comes to playing the game.

In case you missed the previous installments of the series:

Sources include:


History, Soccer, South Africa

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author avatar Memba Ben
A fan's view on the business of football.

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