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Bulls' foray into Soweto much more than a rugby match

By unknown | May 19, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

SO THE Blue Bulls are coming to Soweto on Saturday!

SO THE Blue Bulls are coming to Soweto on Saturday!

They should be glad that in the South African political landscape, the line "the times they are a'changing" is real, and not just another hackneyed phrase.

Those who came before them were not allowed into black townships to kick the pigskin around.

Ah, but for the alchemy of Mandela!

Old newspaperman Joe Latakgomo - his book on the history of soccer, Mzansi Magic, is just out - shares with me hilarious anecdotes of how white soccer players used every trick in the book, including travelling hidden in the boot, to evade the police.

Orlando Stadium, where the Bulls will scrum, maul and drop shots this weekend was a reward to the Johannesburg Bantu Football Association, Latakgomo recalls. This was done with the strict proviso from the city fathers that the association could have continued access to the facility as long as black Africans played against their own.

The influx of Coloured and Indian players into the fold of Orlando Pirates and other black clubs threw a spanner in the works.

Things got out of hand when black soccer administrators like Bethuel Morolo had the brainwave to lure those of the palest hue to their clubs. Among the ubiquitous roadblocks of the era were those set up to send those whites who had the temerity to dare enter black areas back to the suburbs.

Thanks to apartheid policies of the time, a game between Highlands Park and Pirates had to be shunted across the borders to Swaziland. Latakgomo says the zealots saw red and duly denied the throngs of supporters passports to go watch the match, which was organised to officially open the Somhlolo Stadium.

But as the power of sports would prove greater than the myopia of apartheid, white players - like moths to a flame, were bent on sweating it out across the colour bar.

Someone writing about this sad aspect of our past in one website says "... in 1979, Kaizer Chiefs took the politically momentous step of signing the first white player to join a historically black club, a veteran midfielder Lucky Stylianou who instantly . became one of the best-known whites in black South Africa."

Had Chiefs not taken this bold step and allowed separate development to prevail, we'd not have known any of the great white players whose on-field antics soothed the hearts of black folk against the injustices of the repressive system.

Today Stylianou is a development coach at Chiefs.

When they step onto the pitch at the Mecca of Soccer, the Bulls beefcakes, who are the defending Super 14 champions, must remember other careers were ruined because they were not allowed to play at the historic Orlando site.

When they pitch up at the stadium, Victor Matfield and company are likely to arrive in the comfort of an airconditioned bus.

They must play for those who had to be smuggled in or were refused entry.


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