This article analyses the complex process that deracialised and democratised South African football between the early 1970s and 1990s. Based mainly on archival documents, it argues that growing isolation from world sport, exemplified by South Africa's expulsion from the Olympic movement in 1970 and FIFA in 1976, and the reinvigoration of the liberation struggle with the Soweto youth uprising triggered a process of gradual desegregation in the South African professional game. While Pretoria viewed such changes as a potential bulwark against rising black militancy, white football and big business had their own reasons for eventually supporting racial integration, as seen in the founding of the National Soccer League. As negotiations for a new democratic South Africa began in earnest between the African National Congress (ANC) and the National Party (NP) in the latter half of the 1980s, transformations in football and politics paralleled and informed each other. Previously antagonistic football associations began a series of 'unity talks' between 1985 and 1986 that eventually culminated in the formation of a single, non-racial South African Football Association in December 1991, just a few days before the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) opened the process of writing a new post-apartheid constitution. Finally, three decades of isolation came to an end as FIFA welcomed South Africa back into world football in 1992 - a powerful example of the seemingly boundless potential of a liberated and united South Africa ahead of the first democratic elections in 1994.
Bibliographical noteThis is an electronic version of an article published in Bolsmann, Chris H. and Alegi, Peter (2010). From apartheid to unity: white capital and black power in the racial integration of South African football, 1976-1992. African Historical Review, 42 (1), pp. 1-18. African Historical Review is available online at: http://www.informaworld.com/openurl?genre=article&issn=1753-2523&volume=42&issue=1&spage=1
- South Africa