The story that follows sets the scene for a series of seven articles into South African sport history.
The story tells of Thabo Daniels, born in the ‘mixed’ Veeplaas slums of Port Elizabeth.
“The corrugated iron shack I shared with my parents and two younger brothers was bordered by two Coloured and two Indian families. We children grew up playing together. Communication was no problem as we all spoke Afrikaans and Xhosa.
When I reached standard three I asked my mother why Gert and Piet did not attend the same school with me. She said the law prohibited them from attending an African school.
I went to Loyiso High School, also in Verplaas. While at high school I progressed in soccer and cricket. On the other side, both Gert and Piet were doing well at Pieterson High. Piet was a good goalkeeper and Gert played in the middle-field and both represented Eastern Province schools in the same year.
There was a burning desire to play against them. I had played against them before but in unofficial matches- only in street football.
In 1975, we won the Department of Education League, and Paterson won the league in their area.
An opportunity presented itself the following year when Paterson High was invited to take part in a national tournament. A game between us and Paterson dubbed ‘The Battle Of The Champs’ was scheduled for June 14 at the Zwide Stadium. We spent extra time preparing for what seemed to be the toughest game of our careers. All the boys were fit a rearing to go.
But then disaster struck. On the eve of the game, after school had came out, a circuit inspector arrived at the principal’s office and told him to cancel the game because it was illegal. Black vs Coloured school sport was prohibited. Everybody was disappointed. Some of my team mates wept openly.”
(GILPIN, T. 1999. Match Makers: a case for South African sport. Cape Town: Mills Litho.)
This story reflects all the realities of the history of sport in South Africa, albeit a story of an amateur school team. In this series I hope to research South African sport history. In doing so, see what state South African sport could have been in if it was not marred by ‘Apartheid’.
The second instalment of the series can be read at: