It’s often difficult to pinpoint seminal moments in sport. This is especially the case in football. Ask people when the first football match was played and the answers will range from the fifteenth-century to the recent 1800s. History teaches us to be weary of ‘first ever’ occasions in a sport with such a long past.
Luckily the birth of Black football in South Africa is a much less fraught affair. Brought to Southern Africa in the mid nineteenth-century, the beautiful game quickly spread across the country among settlers and natives alike. By the 1890s, African football boasted a host of tournaments and had begun to attract the attention of British teams. In 1897, the revered English amateur gentlemen side Corinthians toured South Africa for a 23-match tour. The purpose of Corinthian’s tour had been to test the mettle of the South African sides and raise the sport’s popularity even further. Little did the English side know that two years later a representative African side would travel to England to return the favour. Remarkably this team was made of native African players, as opposed the whites only teams Corinthians faced two years prior.
Their name was Orange Free State Bantu F.C and they were the first black South African football team to tour the world. Their story is one of politics, race and of course, the beautiful game.