Soccer

SA soccer pioneer Sacks dies

2015-08-24 14:22
RIP

Saul Sacks, who in his role as chairperson of Arcadia Shepherds, sanctioned the breaking of the apartheid law of the day when Vincent Julius became the first black to be officially included in an all-white National Football League team, has died.

Sacks developed pneumonia after an accident in which he suffered broken ribs and died at the age of 88 after a brief illness.

"He was a credit to South African soccer in an impeccable record in the game," said top PSL official and former Wits University president, Professor Ronnie Schloss, who was a contemporary of Sacks in the NFL.

Known as "Mr Arcadia" for his long tenure at the helm of the Pretoria soccer club, Sacks piloted the momentous breakthrough in 1976 with the inclusion of Julius that heralded the breakdown of apartheid in the mainstream of South African soccer.

He was also a party to the NFL delegation headed by chairperson Michael Rapp that negotiated the amalgamation with George Thabe's National Professional Soccer League to form a non-racial body two years later.

For long the pride of Pretoria soccer, where Bafana Bafana legend Mark Fish was groomed as a junior, Arcadia finally relinquished their position in the NPSL early in the 1980s after the Nationalist Party-controlled City Council dogmatically placed obstacles in the way of non-racial soccer being played at the Caledonian Ground.

While the club continued to cater for amateur and junior teams, the very future of the club is ironically in jeopardy today as the City Council plans to implement a development programme on the sight of the centrally-situated Caledonian Ground.

Sacks' progressive approach resulted in the acquisition of former Glasgow Rangers and Danish international Kai Johannsen becoming a player and then coach of Arcadia, with stars of the calibre of legendary goalkeeper Trevor Gething, the three Wegerle brothers, Steve, Geoff and Roy, Stan Lapot, Roy Matthews, Stan Lapot, Jackie Botten and the burgeoning Fish guiding Arcadia to a succession of honours in the NFL in the 1960s and 1970s.

Apart from his soccer achievements, Sacks was also an above-average tennis player and continued playing the game until a couple of years before his death.

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