Which is what they got: The Pirates were 2-1 winners after a fast, skillful game. To the visitor, though, it wasn't just the caliber of the match that made the afternoon fascinating. The two players at the heart of the Pirates' defense, Stewart Lilley and Mike Lambert, were white. Another white kept goal for the Chiefs. The referee was white, as was one of the coaches.
And in that vast black assembly, there were more than a handful of white fans. One of them, Paul Miller from Jo'burg, claimed, "I'm here every week." He was somewhat breathless, having just detached himself from a dancing group of black Pirates supporters who were celebrating the win. "The world has got to look at this thing!" he gasped. "This is real multiracial! All those various councils on world sport that keep us out are a load of——!"
After the big game on Saturday, of course, Miller would have had no reason to return to Soweto the following day. Had he done so, he would have seen two local black amateur sides playing in explosions of dust on a dirt strip less than 30 yards wide, cut out of an arid slope. One of the forwards came to the sideline limping and, engaged in conversation, showed only a bitter interest in Saturday's Pirates-Chiefs game. "That's all special," he said. "Those men are special pros, the whites help them. We have nothing. No training facilities, nothing." His voice rose angrily. "Look at it! Look at it!" he shouted, pointing at the scabby patch of earth. In a more normal voice he said, "The people here are crying." He didn't want to give his name.
Inevitably you are drawn to a pleasant, carefully spoken man, George Thabe, who is the president of the black South African National Football (i.e., soccer) Association.
He too is a worried man. He has just had word of an unpleasant incident down in Western Cape Province. There, on its way to play a black side, a colored (i.e., of mixed race) soccer team from Glenville had been turned back at a roadblock outside the black township of Nyanga, where the game was to take place. The police action was apparently illegal under the recent amendment to the Group Areas Act, of course, but that fact was of little comfort to the Glenville team when it met the rural Cape cops. "Nothing like this has happened for three years," Thabe insisted. Seated in his Johannesburg office, he was furious as well as worried. His association—indeed he himself—is a symbol of the government's new sporting look, of its new multiracialism." Here he is, a black man at the head of one of the nation's most important sports bodies, directing a sport that could claim to be the most successfully integrated in South Africa. "In 1978," he said in a later conversation, "we decided that the only criterion for both players and officials should be performance. We were way ahead of the government. I should have been put in jail for some of the things I did before the government amended the law."
It was not only the Glenville incident, though, that worried Thabe. It was also the criticism, not from the government but from a group he refers to darkly as "those people," who, he says, "tell us to do nothing, boycott everything, polarize everybody, stop playing segregated sport. Well, we did stop the segregation in our sport, and now they're saying that's useless. They are politicians who are using sport as a tool. We say that sport is strong enough to bring change on its own. And there are results to show."
To discover just who "those people" are, you visit a house situated on the lower slopes of Devil's Peak in Woodstock, a colored section of Cape Town that overlooks the dockyards. Here a small, voluble man named Frank van der Horst offers you a soda and pink cookies and gives his views on Thabe and others like him who are involved in the promotion of multiracial sport—a weasel phrase, in van der Horst's opinion.
He is the newly elected president of the antigovernment South African Council on Sport—"those people"—hereinafter referred to as SACOS, and he does not mince words. "My organization," he says, "regards Thabe as a collaborator. He's part of the apparatus, a paid agent of the government. He plays right into their hands. The white racist soccer bodies struck a deal with Thabe and Co. He has been totally corrupted."
Twelve years ago, the government established what it called "umbrella" bodies to govern each sport with which, in its own words, "sports organizations of all population groups could affiliate...." In soccer, for instance, the umbrella is the Football Council of South Africa, under which are gathered the Football Association of South Africa, a white body; Thabe's South African National Football Association, which is for blacks; and the South African Football Association, an organization for colored athletes. If all that is confusing, then, in the opinion of SACOS, it is meant to be so. SACOS was formed in 1973 as an alternative.
"Prior to SACOS," says van der Horst, "organizations had to be content to negotiate with white bodies and affiliate with them. What the whites were looking for were stooges to parade for outside consumption. The aim of the government is to fragmentize the whole country, and that includes sports."