Posted: 12/12/2009
Title: FIELDS OF PLAY AND THE ROBBEN ISLAND LEAGUE

Blog:                                                                                                                         

         Football memories and forced removals in Cape Town. For World Cup visitors this is a museum, and collection of museums not to be missed in downtown Cape Town.

      'Fields of Play' explores the dynamic intersection of memory,football and forced removals in the not too distant history of this World Cup city by the bay. It is in one building of the DISTRICT SIX MUSEUM.   District Six was the area near the docks in Cape Town that came under the passing of the Group Area Act of 1950 which led to the massive forced dispersal of the black population from the city centre to Cape Flats and elsewhere. As you travel by road from Cape Town International Airport you pass this township of corrugated iron, wood and cardboard with communal water pipes and latrines. Some prominent clubs managed to relocate and rebuild, but many folded as a result of loss of membership. www.districtsix.co.za

     Langa based clubs were required a permit to play away in Gugulethu.  Following the infamous Sharpeville massacre in 1960 near Johannesburg, a new awareness of sport in political mobilisation took place. In 1964 The South African Football Federation was suspended by FIFA. In 1973 (SACOS) South African Council on Sports was formed in response to the apartheid regime's insistance on separation in sport. Sport became a vehicle for protest and opposition.

     The Sacks Futeran building was a soft goods and textiles outlet and was purchased in 2003. The five building complex occupies a city block. They will be expanding and will have a further exhibition in a few months about players that made it in the last half century or so in Europe.  I remember watching Bill Perry score the winning goal in 'The Matthews Final' of 1953 at Wembley-Blackpool 4 v Bolton Wanderers 3.

     I was lucky enough to meet with Virgil Slade, Uncle Joe, Mandy and others who have put the exhibition together, and who were so enthusiastic about the project. It is a terrific record with displays of photos, uniforms, trophies, programmes and other momentos from the time when football was first played on the Greenpoint Common in the 1860's and where one semi-final and a number of group matches will be played at FIFA World Cup 2010 at the new Greenpoint Stadium.

    You may also be interested in the well organized football league on Robben Island by the political prisoners.(no away matches!!) There were 8 teams and they were sticklers for FIFA regulations. Records of players, matches, league tables were enthusiastically kept. They formed the Makana Football Association(MFA) on the island with a constitution, voting and by-laws. Manong FC dominated the league table for years.  They had a retain and transfer system just like the rest of the world and registration of players. Most of the teams represented their political parties such as the Pan Africanist Congress or the African National Congress, but Manong FC accepted anyone. The fans had chants, songs and great rivalry.

      They even had referee examinations and the most popular book in the prison library after Karl Marx' Capital, was Dennis' Howell's Manual of Refereeing.  Many of the players and organizers became prominent later in a free South Africa.  When I was at college I was secretary of the Anti-Apartheid Society and wrote about sport and society, and I wouldn't buy 'Outspan' brand oranges, a product of South Africa.  I also wrote about SANROC, run by Dennis Brutus in USA and Sam Ramsamus, in London from 1963. The South African Non Racial Olympic Committee.  I asked about Dennis, who is still alive in the Jo'burg area but is not very well. Between 1971-1985 he was Professor of English at Northwestern University in Illinois. He had been arrested, imprisoned and tortured in South African before leaving home.

  Former players on the island included Dikgang Moseeneke, Deputy Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, Steve Tshwene, the first Minister of Sport in a democratic South Africa, and Jacob Zuma the current President.  You can read more in : 'More than Just a Game: Football v Apartheid', by Chuck Korr and Marvin Close. Harper Collins and St. Martin's Press.

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