Shawn Forde is a PhD student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. His research relates to how people mobilize through and around sport, particularly football, for social change. He is currently interested in the social and political role that football played in the Eastern Cape in South Africa, during the 1970s and 1980s.
Ezemidlalo Njenqesixhobo Senkullueko: The History and Politics of the Grahamstown Soccer Association (1975-1985)
This paper offers an historical narrative of the Grahamstown Soccer Association (GRASA), during the 1970s and 1980s. Although soccer clubs organized by white South Africans, and rugby clubs organized by both white and black South Africans, were a prominent part of life in Grahamstown from the end of the 19th Century, official soccer clubs in black communities were established relatively late. Drawing on newspaper articles from the Grocott’s Mail and the Ilizwi LaseRhini (Grahamstown Voice), as well as oral histories from administrators, coaches, and players of the time, we will discuss how and why black soccer clubs formed in the early 1970s and how they came together to establish GRASA in 1977. Further, we will look at the place of GRASA within the non-racial sport movement in South Africa, conflicts within the association relating to the administration of the league and its eventual association with SACOS, and the role of the association and its teams in developing community and contributing to broader political struggles. This paper will make a unique contribution to the historical literature on soccer in South Africa in two important ways. First, the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa is relatively underrepresented in soccer literature. Second, by taking an in-depth look at one specific association, we aim to show the complex, interesting, and sometimes contradictory ways that soccer and politics came together during a time of significant social change