My last post was all about football advertisements. If you have seen the videos I have put up, you will notice a couple of them talk about racism. But have you ever wondered why football and anti-racism have been linked together so often?
At first I thought, just as almost every huge organization supports a cause, in the same way FIFA supports anti-racism. But if this was the case I doubt the connection between the two would be so strong. There is something very special about the connection between football and anti-racism. I have never really been able to figure this out until recently.
When the host for the 2010 World Cup was announced you could actually feel the excitement pouring out of South Africa. It is obvious that any country would react in such a manner if they were told that the World Cup was to be held on home soil. But this excitement was different… I use the word ‘different’ not to point out the fact that they are the first country in Africa to host the world cup but to highlight the struggles they have been through over the years and how football plays an important role in the country’s development.
The first documented game is said to have been played in the year 1862 between White civil servants and soldiers in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. But as racism became more prominent the Whites stuck to playing rugby and cricket while the Blacks played football and boxing. Many African, Indian and Coloured football leagues and associations were formed.
The game proved to be a hit among the victims of racism as it was simple and fun to play. It was something that enkindled deep emotion within the people’s hearts and brought excitement. Football gave them a reason to forget about their suffering for some time.
As the years passed on, more clubs and leagues were formed, more matches were played between non-whites and the game’s popularity increased. Various traditions and customs played an important part in shaping African football.
As people began to move to the cities in search of jobs, this game became their source of entertainment. It united them together and gave them something to believe in. It gave them self-worth and a sense of belonging. It also gave them a reason to smile.
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”
– Nelson Mandela
But up till then, it was only racism that troubled them. After the Second World War and following the general elections of 1948, apartheid was introduced as an official policy. Derived from the Afrikaans word for “apartness,” apartheid is a term that came into usage in the 1930s and signified the political policy under which the races in South Africa were subject to “separate development”. It involved political, legal, and economic discrimination against nonwhites.
The rise of apartheid created a lot of problems in the footballing world to the extent that even obtaining a football field to play on was a challenge. Then, in 1951 the South African Soccer Federation was formed (SASF). It was formed by non-whites and strictly opposed apartheid in sport. The league that was formed demonstrated that anti-racist football was the more popular one of the two. They repeatedly asked FIFA to recognize their existence and to grant them affiliation. At the same time, they consistently requested that FIFA terminate the affiliation of FASA (meant for whites-only) because it practiced racial discrimination.
As the FASA refused to compromise on their policies, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) expelled them in 1960. By 1964, such was the worldwide pressure that the FIFA Congress took the majority decision to suspend the country from international football until they learnt to play on non-racial grounds.
In the late 1980’s talks began between football associations to form a single, non-racial controlling body. On December 1991 marked the formation of the South African Football Association (SAFA). After the release of Nelson Mandela on 11th February 1990 and the formation of a new government FIFA took into consideration these positive changes and on 3 July 1992 FIFA welcomed South Africa back into World Football.
On 7th July 1992 South Africa hosted its first ever match where they beat Cameroon 1-0. On 3rd February 1996, South Africa won the African Nations’ Cup by defeating Tunisia (2-0) before a delirious home crowd of 90,000 people at the FNB Stadium, Soccer City. In 1998 South Africa participated in its first ever World Cup Finals. And today it is South Africa that hosts the 19th edition of the FIFA World Cup.