Football and apartheid in South Africa

By Michael Kachitsa

A growing body of academic and popular literature considers the history of South African football. These and existing publications pay little or no attention to the emergence of white professional football in apartheid South Africa. The National Football League (NFL) challenged the amateur game and introduced professional football to the country. During its 17-year existence, the NFL grew each season with large attendances until its demise in 1977.

In addition, the NFL imported a range of international players, invited foreign teams and actively engaged in the political debates in South African sport at the time. The NFL was instrumental in popularising the game across the country for all South Africans. 

The NFL became the most popular sports entertainment of choice for South Africans during this period. Finally, the NFL actively engaged in a campaign of destroying rival non-racial anti-apartheid leagues while simultaneously co-opting less progressive organisations.