unknown history of Leicester City footballers in Apartheid South
DATE: 01.09.2017 - THE CUNNING FOX - NEWSDESK
Back in 1959 the NFL was
founded as the first professional football league in South Africa.
The import of players from Britain, Germany and Greece became an
integral part of everything.
Not only players were imported, but also managers and coaches.
The NFL was sponsored by the large companies, one was Coca Cola,
they even had a cup named after them, taking place in Apartheid
A number of both national and club teams toured South Africa.
Leicester City travelled the country in 1961, just a few days after
being defeated in the FA Cup final by Tottenham.
This happened, despite South Africa being sanctioned by FIFA as they
could not tolerate national teams segregated by skin colours. The
NFL was an "all white" league, with the other skin colours having
other foundations and leagues.
Leicester City will for always be the team that was the first to
play a team from the NFL, when they played Durban City, on the 27th
of May 1961, at a place called Kingsmead. The game ended in a 2-0
win for City
City later on the tour played a combined Transval team at the Rand
Stadium in Johannesburg. This is today and was then also the home
stadium of famous South African football club Kaiser Chiefs.
The tour also included a visit to Rhodesia, that today as we all
know is known as Zimbabwe. Leicester City played the national team
and won the game 4-3.
You can find results and a small note in the latest "fossils & foxes"
book describing the tour as relaxed, but not much said on why they
went on a tour to Apartheid South Africa, a country sanctioned by
FIFA at the time, not allowed to play in the World Cup.
Many English clubs toured South Africa during the early 60's, and
played the teams of the NFL, and as the story goes on, a lot of
players also moved down there to play professionally for the clubs
that described the imports influence as vital for the league
Former England international Peter Withe, started his professional
life in football in the NFL, and he never made any secret of the
fact that he moved down there in early years, because he couldn't
find a club in Britain.
Connections made it possible to play as a professional. Port
Elizabeth City became his first club in the NFL. Later he played for
Arcadia Shepherds, and build up a reputation as a good goalscorer.
Former Wolverhampton and Leicester player Derek Dougan played as a
guest for Arcadia, and during those few games he partnered Withe,
that was recomended by Dougan, and later the two became team mates
Withe was one of the so called "late bloomers" in football. Before
he won the league with Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest, and got
his caps for England, he played a number of seasons in the NFL.
Roy Hodgson, was before taking over the England job, confronted with
his life as a professional in South Africa. He said it was all for
footballing reasons. As we know Hodgson, he never talked much about
his only professional adventure as a player, playing for Pretoria
based Berea Park.
Other more profiled players such as Ian St John, well known from his
days at Liverpool and Johnny Haynes, the Fulham and England legend,
both had spells in the NFL.
Johnny Byrne who played for England and West Ham never came back,
after establishing himself as one of the best players in the NFL and
later a legendary manager in South African football.
Frank McLintock and Gordon Banks are two former Leicester City
players that late in their career had short spells at Cape Town
based Hellenic FC, joining up with their former teammate at Arsenal
and Stoke, forward George Eastham.
Banks was one of a number of former "Boys of 66" to join up, for
longer and shorter spells. Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst, Alan Ball,
Bobby Moore and Roger Hunt all had spells in the NFL, and they
attracted large crowds in this "all white" league.
The Cape Town clubs were popular, with many british players. In the
best years of the league almost nine players at each club were
imports. More than 150 players from the UK had moved down to the NFL,
some was not given permission by family to go, but some did.
To play football under such a regime, and as history has told us,
Nelson Mandela prisoned for life during the time.
The NFL folded in 1977, with the "all white" skin rule being
challenged by certain clubs, introducing black players with Vincent
Julius being the first playing for Arcadia Shepherds.
This was for many "white skinned" players a chance to "earn a
living" late in their careers, and for those not able to make it in
the UK. Some made the journey for just a game or two, while others
stayed for the rest of their lives, doing well, coaching
Players were not doing anything illegal as they were allowed to play,
but on the ethical side of the matter, they made a choice few would
Football in general and many of the foreign imports that stayed on
as managers and teachers of football, has later been given credit
for being pioneers, showing that segregation is not needed in this
type of game, and has no place in the world of football.
Apartheid came to an end in the early 90's, with South Africa again
being allowed to participate in international football.
To read more about all players in the NFL and stories of the "All
White" football league,
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tcf - filbertway