Sylvain Cubizolles

Sylvain Cubizolles

My research activity is part of a general theme entitled “Sport and Poverty”. It takes into account the popular urban spaces in two zones of the Indian Ocean: South Africa and its townships; The island of La Réunion and its disadvantaged neighborhoods. In both cases, my investigations are carried out using qualitative urban sociology methods: observation in situation; interview.
Sports dynamics and informality in the townships – the case of Gambling soccer in Kayamandi


This text is based on an ethnographic survey conducted in the course of three two-week visits (in 2014, 2015 and 2016) in the township of Kayamandi (the Western Cape, South Africa), with a view to studying an informal sports activity – « gambling soccer » or « Sunday league ». Through the description of the activity, in which money and football are combined within a self-managed framework, this study aims at documenting a little known aspect of sports in South Africa, i.e. those which take place in the townships and which, due to their being non-institutional, are usually unknown, because their visibility is reduced by their operating within small communities and their influence contained within the limits of the township. In the first section, the study will situate the football context of Stellenbosch and the Kayamandi township, a picture which will lead to an assessment of the part played by gambling soccer in the overall space. The second section will be a detailed description of the organisation and operation of the activity which, however informal, has its own rules, so that it can be performed on a regular basis every Sunday and perceived as reliable enough for the players and managers to accept to commit themselves and invest their money in it. Last, in the third section three points will be discussed: 1/ the part played by money and “betting” in this sports activity in the township; 2/ the social relations generated by the activity within the neighbourhood, in terms of generations, reputation and accomplishment; 3/ the form of resistance which gambling soccer represents against the normalising forces of the regular institutions. That third point will serve as a basis to start thinking on the notion of informality in the townships and better understanding of how it is built in sports – the interests of the different players; the various practices that fuel it, the combination of which makes it possible for the activity to thrive informally.

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