Ballad of a South African Football Fan
May 10, 2010 3:42 PM   Subscribe

16 years after the end of apartheid in South Africa and one month before the first ever World Cup to be held in Africa begins, Raymond Whitaker writes about his memories of football (not rugby) in South Africa in the 60s and 70s.

As a young white who yearned for the barriers of apartheid to be demolished, I was overwhelmed. For the first time in my life in South Africa, white and black people were hoarse with mutual joy, chanting “Jo-mo! Jo-mo!” All the restrictions and suspicions of South African life were forgotten for a couple of hours; instead we saw what was possible when everybody had a common purpose. But look at that date again. It was exactly three months before June 16th 1976, when police opened fire on black students in Soweto—another event I witnessed—and an uprising began that did not cease until Nelson Mandela was free. Clint Eastwood’s recent film “Invictus” suggests that the 1995 rugby World Cup final was the game that united black and white South Africans, but at the Rand Stadium on that March night we glimpsed what took the best part of two more decades to come to pass. Never was a game more beautiful: it still chokes me up to think of it.
posted by WalterMitty (3 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting article. Hamba Kahle, Ace Ntsoelengoe is a eulogy for Patrick Pule "Ace" Ntsoelengoe that covers some of the same ground.

From the Raymond Whitaker article:

During the World Cup, he says, “there will be excitement here. The stadiums will be full.” But he is not alone in hoping that the arrival of the world’s best teams will restore some of the lost fervour at home. South African fans can certainly be relied upon to make some noise: their jarring, droning vuvuzela plastic horns drew complaints from several other nations at the Confederations Cup last year. How many of them are likely to be white, I ask Jomo. “To be honest, white people don’t support football,” he says. “They believe that soccer in South Africa is a black man’s sport. There are very few white players around.” Later he says that white players drifted away “because there was too much politics. They were not always made to feel welcome.” A country can change its entire system of government and go from an international pariah to an inspiration, but shifting the ingrained sporting tastes of its tribes is another matter.

In regards to the present day issue of the racial make up of the teams themselves, I was surprised that Whitaker didn't mention the racial quotas used to get more black players into other sports in South Africa. I understand that we're reading 'memories of football (not rugby)', but if he's going to discuss the ongoing racial divide within sport in SA, as he does above, it seems strange not to mention it.
posted by toodles at 7:34 PM on May 10, 2010

Really interesting article, cheers.
posted by Dim Siawns at 1:27 AM on May 11, 2010

Semi-related, a BBC Radio documentary on the growth of football in Africa, Africa Kicks.
posted by yerfatma at 8:47 AM on May 11, 2010

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