Race and Football in South Africa
We’ve talked before about South Africa’s love of football, digging into the rivalry between the Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. But while that illustrated the country’s passion for the game, today we will discuss the particular importance of football to the nation’s primarily black population.
While cricket and rugby are also popular games here, those sports have been historically white in this country, and even with the abolishment of apartheid in 1994, have remained predominantly white. While some blacks and colored people have started a rise to cricket or rugby notoriety, football still remains the clear king among these groups. For many of these people, South Africa’s proudest moment to this day is winning the African Cup of Nations in 1996. This post will expand a bit upon the South African football world, giving you some nice information to break the ice with next time you find yourself in a social situation with a South African.
We have already discussed the Kaizer Chiefs—essentially the New York Yankees or Manchester United of South African football—and their rival Orlando Pirates. However, there are other South African clubs that have earned popularity since the nation’s Premier League inked an international broadcasting deal in 2007, generating funds (it is now the seventh-wealthiest league in the world) to attract more talent. Some of the most notable include the Mamelodi Sundowns (also known as the “Brazilians”) and SuperSport United—both based in Tshwane/Pretoria.
As far as competitions go, the regular-season Premier League is the biggest prize, but there are several others. The MTN 8 is an annual knockout tournament featuring the top eight Premier League finishers from the previous season, while the Telkom Knockout Cup is similar but extends invitations to all 16 Premier League teams. There is also the Nedbank Cup, which is an annual tournament that gives lower-division clubs a chance to compete with (and sometimes defeat) Premier League squads.
Of course, there is also the national team, affectionately know as Bafana Bafana (“the boys”) and Banyana Banyana (“the girls”). Bafana Bafana’s aforementioned 1996 African Cup victory was a shock following the nation’s failure to even qualify for the 1994 edition, and a huge windfall for the national psyche in the fragile post-apartheid era. The club also put on a formidable showing as host nation of the 2010 World Cup, kicking the tournament off in fine fashion with a brilliant strike from Siphiwe Tshabalala in the opening match. Banyana Banyana, meanwhile, has consistently been one of the top clubs in Africa.