The World Cup is up and running. Teams are swapping shirts, shaking hands and some nice celebrations (so far the South African’s opening goal celebration is top of the ‘joyous goal scoring celebrations chart’). So far so good. Just a few divers who were publicly shamed in front of worldwide TV audiences as the referees gave them their nice shiny yellow cards. Germany’s Mesut Ozil getting the first yellow card for diving in the opening minutes (8th minute) of their opening game with Australia.
One moving story emerged this week on BBC TV as they did a short piece on South Africa’s Robben Island prisoners’ football league. Despite the racist authority’s initial refusal, the apartheid prisoners negotiated their rights to play the beautiful game in the stone quarry. An internal football league was formed and the Makana Football Association was born with team names like ‘Hotspurs’, ‘Gunners’, ‘Rangers’ and ‘Ditshitshidi’.
Politicians and leading figures who played in MFA include Minister of Defence ‘Terror’ Lekota, the Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa Dikgang Moseneke, ANC President Jacob Zuma and business leader Tokyo Sexwale. Some prisoners, like Nelson Mandela, never played as they were kept in isolation. But they said he used to cheer them on from his prison cell window.
They made a film about it. Part 2 reveals how football helped the prisoners transcend their dire circumstances. So no moaning nor whining from today’s multi millionaire footballers as they play the game we all love.
The MFA is said to have developed into an outlet and symbol of the prisoners’ passion and commitment to discipline. ‘More Than Just A Game’ is a ‘true story’ feature film, whose synopsis describes the MFA as a “training ground not only for the body but for the political soul, where the principles of ufabet เข้าสู่ระบบทางเข้า negotiation and dialogue [were] practiced and entrenched.”
In a sense, this brotherhood of football gave the players a code. As Michael Okeowo beautiful piece stated “political prisoners defied apartheid rules, but adhered strictly to the FIFA’s rules”.
One former prison player explained at the end of the short BBC documentary, how playing football helped them to survive their oppression because, he revelead: ‘We knew we were part of the universe of footballers.’