From apartheid to World Cup, football comes a long way in South Africa

Johannesburg, Nov 28 (DPA) History is supposed to be the study of facts, but as in so many things in South Africa, even the history of international football in the country is not as straightforward as it should be.

A number of questions immediately arise when looking at the history of South Africa in international football.

Does the history of international football start only in July 1992, when the South African Football Association (SAFA) was re-admitted as a member of the sports’ controlling body FIFA, or does one count the internationals played under the ‘whites-only’ Football Association of South Africa as internationals?

Statistics for FASA were kept diligently, not so though for black football in the country.

Thus one arrives at a situation that a player like goalkeeper Trevor Gething, who is white, is credited with having represented his country, whilst his black counterpart, Patson Banda, has not.

But while it is unquestionably unfair that Banda, and all the others, have not been able to play for South Africa, one would nevertheless do Gething an injustice to strip him of his caps.

Parts of the problems must lie with FIFA, which allowed FASA membership, even though it was restricted to whites.

But FIFA was not the only organisation fooled, and in 1957, FASA became a founder member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

The other founder members of CAF, however, soon realised that FASA in fact did not represent the majority of football players in South Africa and even though included in the draw for the African Nations Cup in 1957, South Africa did not compete as the team was not multi-racial.

Similarly, the country was included in the draw for the qualifying campaign for the 1966 World Cup, but again failed to take part after it became apparent that they would be unable to field a mixed side.

Soon thereafter South Africa was expelled from FIFA, becoming one of the very few countries for which FIFA took such a drastic step.

After being expelled by FIFA, South African football started the slow laborious process towards non-racialism, briefly stopping at multi-racialism en route.

The international history during this time confined itself to attempting to lure a number of international stars, most of them being well past their sell-by date.

An Argentine side, a Portuguese side and a number of others came to South Africa and the country also played a few so-called internationals against Rhodesia (as it was then).

The 1970s also saw a number of German players coming to the country after they were suspended in Germany for accepting bribes. These players, such as Arno Steffenhagen, Volkmar Gross and Bernd Patzke, showed South Africans what they were missing out on.

At about the same time the government introduced a policy of multi-racialism, allowing games between different race groups to take place.

Again, it cannot be said that these constituted any sort of international participation, but they were certainly introduced directly as a result of the lack of international fixtures.

After Vincent Julius had become the first black player to officially play in a so-called white league and more and more teams joined under the wing of the predominantly black National Professional Soccer League, what little international contact had existed trickled to a halt.

The leading clubs, such as Kaizer Chiefs, also came out openly and said they would not in any way be associated with international matches, for as long as South Africa remained outside FIFA.

Nevertheless, a large number of foreign players still came to South Africa, in most cases seeking fortune rather than fame and at the same time risking a FIFA ban.

But all of that changed in 1992 when South Africa was finally readmitted to FIFA, thereby paving the way not only to hosting and winning the 1996 African Nations Cup, participating at the 1998 and 2002 World Cup finals, but more importantly, being awarded the right to host the 2010 World Cup finals in 2006.