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More Than Just a Game Football v Apartheid “Yet%through%it%all,%football%became%their%release,%their%hope,%their% pride%and%their%salvation”% More%than%Just%a%Game:!I!bet!that!phrase!has!been!used! by! generations! of! football! fans! in! pubs,! clubs,! board! rooms,! press! rooms! and! living! rooms! as! match! day! incidents! are! recalled,! attendances! pondered! over! the! game! dissected! and! analysed.! It! sounds! like! something! that!Bill!Shankly!or!Brian!Clough!would!have!uttered!and! quite! possibly! they! did.! However,! the! context! in! which! I! remember! it! comes! from! the! title! of! a! book,! or! more! importantly! the! subject! matter! of! said! book! and! something!I!heard!about!Birst!hand!back!in!2007!while!on! a!trade!mission!to!South!Africa.!! ! After! watching! a! Sunday! game! of! football! in! the! Shanty! Town!of!Alexandria!played!by!boys!no!older!than!18!in!a! crowd! of! over! 2000! our! party! moved! on! to! visit! the! Apartheid! Museum! and! then! to! a! restaurant! named! Wandies!in!Soweto!where!we!met!up!with!a!friend!of!one! of! our! party! for! a! meal! and! chance! to! unwind.! The! guest! was!introduced!simply!as!Tony!and!as!we!sat!down!to!eat! we!struck!up!a!conversation!about!how!our!day!had!been! and!naturally!the!football!soon!entered!the!conversation.!I! wanted! to! talk! about! the! museum! visit,! the! moving! walk! through! 45! years! of! abominable! Apartheid;! but! all! he! wanted!to!talk!about!was!football.!! 24 ! He!asked!about!“my”!club,!although!he!knew!a! lot!about!us!anyway!as!his!friend!in!the!party! was! a! Newcastle! Utd! supporter! and! had! obviously!regaled!him!of!all!that!is!great!about! NUFC!!And!as!we!continued!to!chat!he!started! to! open! up! about! his! own! playing! career;! how! he! played! as! a! striker! and! how! he! represented! only! one! team! in! a! league! run! by! a! body! known! as! the! Makana! FA.! Shamefully,!It!meant!nothing!to!me;!although!really,!I!was! just!a!bloke!from!Newcastle!who!couldn’t!see!past!my!own! club,!the!Premier!league,!the!odd!European!league!or!two! and! certainly! nothing! about! African! football! that! I! could! write!home!about.!! ! But!there!was!something!that!was!bugging!me.!The!smile! on! my! fellow! traveller’s! ! ! face! and! the! odd! glances! that! went!across!the!table!between!the!two!told!me!there!was! something! I! wasn’t! being! told.! It! was! also! apparent! that! every! African! in! the! restaurant! seemed! to! know! this! guy! Tony;! so! I! questioned! more! and! after! much! prompting,! Tony!opened!up!about!how!he!and!his!friends!had!created! their! own! league! to! play! in! and! had! set! up! everything! from! scratch.! Some! became! referees;! others! coaches,! players,!physios!or!managers.!Others!were!responsible!for! maintaining! all! forms! of! on! pitch! and! off! pitch! discipline! and!sat!on!the!disciplinary!board.!I!immediately!began!to! think!Subbuteo!or!some!other!kind!of!table!football!game;! and!had!no!idea!what!was!to!come!when!Tony!mentioned! that!they!had!afBiliated!themselves!to!FIFA.!! Now!this!was!getting!serious;!afBiliating!yourself!to!FIFA!!! ! And!that!was!when!the!bombshell!landed.!This!league!was! founded! on! Robben! Island;! the! Alcatraz! of! South! Africa! and! “home”! to! political! prisoners! like! Walter! Sisulu,! Nelson! Mandela,! President! Jacob! Zuma! and! indeed! Tony! himself;!from!1963!until!his!release!in!1978.!Talk!about!a! game! changer,! well! that! bombshell! was! certainly! the! biggest!one!I!had!walked!into!in!all!my!days.!Tony!was!20! years!old!when!he!was!sentenced;!an!enemy!of!the!State;! fed!on!cold!porridge!for!breakfast,!boiled!maize!for!lunch! and!a!mix!of!boiled!beetroot