Posts Tagged ‘Kaizer Chiefs’

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.

Bafana Bafana's Siphiwe Tshabalala kicks off the 2010 World Cup with a goal against Mexico

Bafana Bafana’s Siphiwe Tshabalala kicks off the 2010 World Cup with a goal against Mexico

South Africa’s Big Game: The Soweto Derby


Unlike most of Africa, cricket and rugby are sports of massive importance to South African culture and its national identity. Like most of Africa, however, this is also a nation fanatical about football, and that obsession is most evident each year when the famed Kaizer Chiefs take on their hated crosstown rival, the Orlando Pirates. Today is the 43rd anniversary of the first of these meetings.

The Soweto Derby, as it has come to be known, annually pit two of the Premier Soccer League’s teams against each other. That their home grounds are located just 10 kilometers apart adds fuel to the fire. In 36 all-time meetings to date, the teams are aggregately separated by just one goal, and also separated by just one game in the standings. Kaizer has won 13 of the meetings, Orlando 11, and 12 matches have resulted in a draw.

The first Soweto Derby took place on January 24, 1970. Adding to the rivalry, the Chiefs were actually formed by Kaizer Motaung, who spent much of his career as the star of the Pirates, who were one of South Africa’s first professional football clubs. While many South African Premier League matches fail to draw well, this match is a full house every year, with bragging rights extending throughout the year. Recent tilts have been televised throughout every African country and 43 countries in Europe, speaking to the magnitude of what the rivalry has become.

The last Soweto Derby, this past December, ended in a 1-1 stalemate. The next one takes place March 9th.

Soweto Derby