Quiz time!

Think you're smarter than your friends? Prove it by tackling Sport24's almost impossible yet highly addictive quiz!

FIFA to meet on Robben Island

2009-11-26 12:09
Gathering (File)
Cape Town - World soccer's leaders meet next week on an island notorious for its once brutal prison but where the game offered relief and hope for hundreds of anti-apartheid activists.

FIFA's executive committee will hold a meeting next Thursday on Robben Island which lies in the middle of Cape Town's Table Bay and was for more than 18 years the jail that housed Nelson Mandela.

It will be a symbolic gesture on the eve of the World Cup draw in Cape Town and highlights how football was played by political prisoners jailed on the island by South Africa's old apartheid government.

The existence of soccer leagues among the prisoners was not documented until the publication of 'More Than Just a Game' by Chuck Korr and Marvin Close in 2007.

The book, which has since been made into a feature film, details the exploits of the Makana Football Association, a group created by inmates.

Among the leaders of the group was South Africa President Jacob Zuma, once a defensive player and later a referee.

Soccer's rulers have since awarded the Makana FA associate membership of FIFA.

The sport was at first banned on Robben Island and prisoners were punished for persistently asking to play.

It took three years of requests plus the intervention of the Red Cross and anti-apartheid Parliamentarian Helen Suzman before inmates were allowed to compete.

Originally it was for only 30 minutes on a Saturday. The first game was held on a windy December morning in 1967 between Rangers and Bucks.

A constitution was written for the association, committees were formed, disciplinary sanctions imposed and there were even authorised transfers, often on tiny scraps of paper.

Many of the political detainees had played regularly before being imprisoned, some at semi-professional level like former South Africa President Kgalema Motlanthe and Patrick Lekota, later to become Defence Minister.

"Prisoners used any material they could lay their hands on to make a football," said Tokyo Sexwale of his time playing on the island while detained for anti-apartheid activities.

"We played with whatever was available and the football nets were made from real fishing nets which had been washed up on the island. We asked for permission to pick them up from the shore."

Sexwale is now the government's Minister of Human Settlement.

The meticulously kept records of the association were uncovered in 1993 by Korr who based his book on 70 boxes of detail of football activity on the island.

Mandela, who was jailed there from 1964-1982 but eventually led South Africa to majority rule in 1994, was forbidden from participating.

The prison is now a museum and a major tourist attraction. Makana was the name of a Xhosa tribal leader jailed on the island by the British in the early 1800s.

More In This Category

Thierry Henry would never consider playing for France again even if new coach and former teammate Laurent Blanc asked him to.
An emotional Diego Maradona says he was betrayed as Argentina coach by national team director Carlos Bilardo.
Carlos Alberto Parreira has left South Africa at the end of his contract with Bafana Bafana, headed for his home in Rio de Janeiro.
Ghana defender John Mensah has refuted claims of a spat with the Ghana Football Association over unpaid Soccer World Cup bonuses.
Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
Live Video Streaming
  • Blitz
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @00:00
  • SS1
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @01:00
  • SS2
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @02:00
  • SS3
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @03:00
Video Highlights
Sport Talk