The South African soccer team, also known as Bafana Bafana (The Boys/Go boys go boys), is one of the most popular and successful teams in Africa. The team has a rich and complex history that spans over a century, from the colonial era to the post-apartheid era. The team has participated in three FIFA World Cups, won the Africa Cup of Nations once, and hosted the first World Cup on African soil in 2010. This article will explore the formation, milestones, and other important details of the South African soccer team.
Formation of the Team
The origins of soccer in South Africa can be traced back to the late nineteenth century, when the game was introduced by British soldiers and settlers However, the sport was not accessible to all races, as the apartheid system enforced racial segregation and discrimination in all aspects of life, including soccer
The first documented soccer matches in South Africa were played in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in 1862, between white civil servants and soldiers. The first soccer club in South Africa was Pietermaritzburg County Football Club, which was established in 1879 by white players only. The first soccer association in South Africa was the Natal Football Association, which was founded in 1882 by white players only.
The first soccer team to represent South Africa internationally was the Orange Free State Bantu Football Club, which toured England in 1898. The team was composed of black players only, and was called the “Kaffir Football Team” by the British press The team played 50 games in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and France, and was captained by Joseph Twayi, who later became a prominent political activist.
The first official soccer association for white players only was the South African Football Association (SAFA), which was formed in 1892 and affiliated to the English Football Association. SAFA joined FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, in 1910, becoming the first association from outside of Europe to do so SAFA organized several tours of white-only South African teams to Europe and South America, as well as hosting white-only visiting teams from England and Scotland.
The first soccer associations for non-white players were the Transvaal Indian Football Association, which was formed in 1896 by Indian clubs, and the South African Indian Football Association, which was formed in 1903 by Indian clubs from different regions. The first national competition for Indian players was the Sam China Cup, which was launched in 1902.
The first soccer association for black players was the Durban & District Native Football Association, which was established in 1916. The first national competition for black players was the Bakers Cup, which was launched in 1932 by the South African African Football Association (SAAFA)
The first soccer association for colored players was the South African Coloured Football Association (SACFA), which was formed in 1933 The first national competition for colored players was the Hendry Cup, which was launched in 1935.
The first soccer association for mixed-race players was the South African Soccer Federation (SASF), which was formed in 1951 by the merger of SAAFA, SACFA, and SAIFA. The first national competition for mixed-race players was the Inter-Race Soccer Board Cup, which was launched in 1952.
The first soccer association for all races was the South African Non-Racial Football Association (SANFA), which was formed in 1962 by the merger of SASF and the South African Soccer League (SASL), a breakaway group of black clubs. The first national competition for all races was the South African Soccer Association Cup, which was launched in 1963.
Milestones of the Team
The South African soccer team has achieved many milestones in its history, both on and off the field. Some of the most notable ones are:
- In 1958, FIFA officially recognized SAFA as the sole governing body of soccer in South Africa, despite its exclusion of non-white players.
- In 1959, the National Football League (NFL) was formed by 12 white clubs from Johannesburg and Pretoria, becoming the first professional soccer league in South Africa
- In 1960, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) suspended SAFA from international soccer, due to its refusal to comply with FIFA’s anti-discrimination policies
- In 1961, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) expelled SAFA from its membership, due to its apartheid policies.
- In 1963, the African Soccer Cup of Nations was launched by CAF, with the participation of 10 African countries, excluding South Africa.
- In 1964, the South African Soccer Association (SASA) was formed by SANFA and other non-white associations, as an alternative to SAFA SASA applied for FIFA membership, but was rejected due to SAFA’s opposition.
- In 1976, FIFA banned SAFA from international soccer, due to its continued apartheid policies. This ban lasted until 1992, when SAFA was dissolved and replaced by the South African Football Association (SAFA), a new non-racial body that was accepted by FIFA and CAF.
- In 1992, the South African soccer team played its first official international match after the end of apartheid, against Cameroon in Durban1 The team won 1-0, with a goal by Doctor Khumalo.
- In 1994, the South African soccer team qualified for its first FIFA World Cup, which was held in France in 1998. The team was drawn in Group C, along with France, Denmark, and Saudi Arabia1 The team lost 3-0 to France, drew 1-1 with Denmark, and won 2-2 with Saudi Arabia, finishing third in the group and failing to advance to the knockout stage.
- In 1996, the South African soccer team hosted and won the African Cup of Nations, which was held in four cities: Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and Port Elizabeth1 The team was drawn in Group A, along with Cameroon, Angola, and Egypt1 The team won 3-0 against Cameroon, 1-0 against Angola, and 0-0 against Egypt, finishing first in the group and advancing to the quarter-finals1 The team beat Algeria 2-1 in the quarter-finals, Ghana 3-0 in the semi-finals, and Tunisia 2-0 in the final, becoming the champions of Africa for the first time1 The team’s top scorer was Mark Williams, who scored four goals, including two in the final.
- In 2002, the South African soccer team qualified for its second FIFA World Cup, which was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan1 The team was drawn in Group B, along with Spain, Paraguay, and Slovenia1 The team drew 2-2 with Paraguay, lost 3-2 to Spain, and won 1-0 against Slovenia, finishing third in the group and failing to advance to the knockout stage.
- In 2010, the South African soccer team became the first African team to host the FIFA World Cup, which was held in nine cities: Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Polokwane, Rustenburg, and Nelspruit1 The team was drawn in Group A, along with Mexico, Uruguay, and France1 The team drew 1-1 with Mexico, lost 3-0 to Uruguay, and won 2-1 against France, finishing third in the group and failing to advance to the knockout stage1 The team became the first host nation in the history of the FIFA World Cup to exit in the group stage1 The team’s Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the first goal of the tournament, in the opening game against Mexico, which was followed by an iconic Macarena-style goal celebration by five South African players
- In 2021, the South African soccer team won the COSAFA Cup, which was held in Gqeberha, South Africa1 The team was drawn in Group A, along with Botswana, Eswatini, and Lesotho1 The team won 1-0 against Botswana, 3-0 against Eswatini, and 4-0 against Lesotho, finishing first in the group and advancing to the semi-finals. The team beat Mozambique 3-0 in the semi-finals, and Senegal 5-4 on penalties in the final
How the South African Soccer Team is Making a Difference in the World
One of the most prominent examples of the team’s social responsibility is the Nelson Mandela Challenge, an annual friendly match that raises funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, which provides care and support for vulnerable children in South Africa. The match was inaugurated in 1994, the same year that Mandela became the first democratically elected president of South Africa, and has since attracted some of the world’s best teams, such as Brazil, Argentina, Germany, and Spain. The match also honors the legacy of Mandela, who was a passionate football fan and a champion of human rights.
Another initiative that the team supports is the Football Foundation for Africa, a social enterprise that seeks to improve the quality of football and related products and services at the grassroots level in Africa. The foundation aims to mobilize resources for the development of sustainable sports facilities and facilitate the transfer of knowledge in all spheres of the game. The foundation also focuses on education, advocacy, and innovation to create a sustainable business model for the future of African football.
The team also collaborates with other organizations that use football as a tool for social change, such as Africa on the Ball, a sport for development charity that uses the power of football to change lives. The charity runs community teams, supports education, and meets the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals through its work. The charity also provides clean water, financial empowerment, and vocational training to the communities it serves. Another partner is Soccer Without Borders, a non-profit organization that uses soccer as a vehicle for positive change, providing underserved youth with a toolkit to overcome obstacles to growth, inclusion, and personal success. The organization operates programs in Uganda, Kenya, Nicaragua, and the United States.
The South African football team is not only a source of pride and joy for the nation, but also a force for good in the world. By using their influence and resources, the team is helping to create a better future for the people of Africa and beyond.