No diviner would have dared to foretell that football will be the first major illustrator of a South Africa without apartheid. The year was 1996, Mandela was president and the wounds of apartheid was fresh.
Before 1996, the 1995 Rugby World Cup which was the third Rugby world Cup was hosted and won by South Africa. The Rugby World Cup inspired the movie “Invictus” which narrated a happy story of how the countrymen of South Africa racially discriminated were united by of course, the Rugby World Cup of 1995. But “Invictus” could be misleading as it made no reference to Chester Williams, the only “Non White” player on the Rugby team who claimed he was usually a receiver of racial abuse.
How Football Unified South Africa
While the 1995 South African Rugby team was almost for “Only Whites” as seen in the video footage above, the first eleven of the South African 1996 African Cup of Nations team managed by Clive Barker, a white South African featured three “Whites” and three “Coloreds”. Little wonder the Irish Times reportedly stated that “the soccer team is much more representative of South Africa than its World Cup winning rugby squad or the cricket team which recently thrashed England.”
Kenya was initially named host of the 1996 African Cup of Nations. But citing financial inability, they rejected to host the tournament and thus, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) moved the game to South Africa. During the tournament, the South African team in their first match at the group stage thumped Cameroon 3-0, won Angola 1-0 and loss 1-0 to Egypt.
Bafana Bafana battled Algeria at the quarterfinal and emerged with a 2-1 win, trashed Ghana 3-0 at the semifinal match and proceeded to the final.
At this stage, all South Africans got involved. The whole country united as Whites, Blacks and Coloreds, trooped to the stadium and collectively cheered the Bafana Bafana boys regardless of the skin color possessing the ball. Racism was forgotten.
A better illustration of the togetherness of South Africans as reported by New York Times narrated that whenever “Eric Tinkler, a blond with a crew cut, got the ball, the crowd screamed out the new nickname he’s earned: ‘Mandela!” Interestingly, the report further revealed that when “Tinkler lined up to boot a penalty kick, the crowd sang a war song. The words, in Zulu, used to be a taunt at whites: “The spear of the Nation is coming. Better watch out.” This time, it was “Tinkler’s coming. Better watch out.”
Eventually, Bafana Bafana won the tournament as they defeated Tunisia in the Finals 2-0.
But indeed, apartheid was what South Africans defeated then. Watch the first and perhaps, only moment when the color of skin did not determine the course of events in South Africa.
Although football has always been ascribed the commendation of fostering integration due to its ability to provide useful key factors for peace-building process via the generation of a most suitable environment for people to get together, work towards the-same purpose, and show respect for others. It was however, never expected that soccer will to this extent, integrate South Africa.