The Development of African Football

By Michael Kachitsa

Association football is the most popular sport in South Africa, followed by rugby union and cricket. The governing body is the South African Football Association (SAFA). The country’s top league is the South African Premier Division, while the main cup competitions are the Nedbank Cup, Telkom Knockout, and the MTN 8 Cup.

Football first arrived in South Africa through colonialism in the late nineteenth century, as the game was popular among British soldiers. From the earliest days of the sport in South Africa until the end of apartheid, organised football was affected by the country’s system of racial segregation. The all-white Football Association of South Africa (FASA), was formed in 1892, while the South African Indian Football Association (SAIFA), the South African Bantu Football Association (SABFA) and the South African Coloured Football Association (SACFA) were founded in 1903, 1933 and 1936 respectively.

In 1903 the SAFA re-affiliated with English The Football Association after the Second Boer War between the British Empire and the Boer state. There was a plan to play a tournament held in Argentina, with South Africa and Fulham as guest teams, but it was not carried out. Nevertheless, South Africa traveled to South America in 1906 to play a series of friendly matches there.

football fans during game between Kaizer Chiefs Editorial Stock ...

South Africa played a total of 12 matches in South America, winning 11 with 60 goals scored and only 7 conceded. Some of the rivals were Belgrano A.C., Argentina national team, a Liga Rosarina combined, Estudiantes (BA) and Quilmes. The only team that could beat South Africa was Argentine Alumni by 1–0 at Sociedad Sportiva stadium of Buenos Aires, on 24 June, although the South African would take revenge on 22 July, defeating Alumni by 2–0.

The players were exclusively white, civil servants, government employees, bankers and civil engineers. Seven of the 15 players were born in South Africa and 8 originated from England and Scotland.

South Africa was one of four African nations to attend FIFA’s 1953 congress, at which the four demanded, and won, representation on the FIFA executive committee. Thus the four nations (South Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan) founded the Confederation of African Football in 1956, and the South African representative, Fred Fell, sat at the first meeting as a founding member.

It soon became clear however that South Africa’s constitution prohibited racially mixed teams from competitive sport and so they could only send either an all-black side or an all-white side to the planned 1957 African Cup of Nations. This was unacceptable to the other members of the Confederation and South Africa were disqualified from the competition, however some sources say that they withdrew voluntarily.