Having seen and watched the SA Legends games and teams that have been selected to represent South Africa on various occasions, I feel and still maintain that the current system or criteria used to select these legends should be reviewed so that it is representative and reflects the true state of affairs as far as the yesteryear South African football is concerned.
I am raising this issue because I have consistently witnessed a distortion or rather a misrepresentation of our football history, not just history but rich history, regardless of which league or era. The continued and constant selection of legends mainly from only a certain era or league, which is the National Professional Soccer League(NPSL) and National Soccer League(NSL), is effectively erasing and writing off any history of football that existed during the era of the National Football League (NFL) established in 1959 by stalwarts like Norman “Silver Fox” Elliot, Dave Marais, Vivian Granger, Topper Brown, Paul Harrison, Eric Litchfield, Dolf Stead, Ted Wallace, Harry Sturisky, Bill McGarvie, Reg Johnson, and many other officials who were involved in the administration of the league and made it a success.
There were great teams who dished out good football in the form of Addington who became Durban Spurs in 1968, Arcadia Shepards who merged with ISCOR Pretoria to form Arcadia United in 1969, Benoni United who also later merged with Brakpan United and Springs playing in the Transvaal League to form East Rand United, Berea Park who also merged with Pretoria City, Bloemfontein City, Boksburg, Cape Town City, Durban Celtic who later changed to Pinetown Celtic in 1974, The Great Durban City of Norman Elliot, Durban Ramblers, Durban United who later merged with Durban Spurs to form Durban Spurs United, East London Celtic who also merged with East London City playing in the Cape Eastern League to form East London United, Germiston Callies, Guild Apollo who merged with Jewish Guild(The Great George Best once featured for this team) and Johannesburg Corinthians to form Roodepoort Guild(The Great Eusébio da Silva Ferreira of Portugal later played for this team in late 70’s).
There were teams like Hellenic, Highlands Park who once merged with Powerlines to form Highlands Power, Johannesburg City to form Northern United and played in the Transvaal League until 1964, then merging with Marist Brothers AFC, Johannesburg Ramblers, Johannesburg Wanderers, Lusitano, Maritzburg who played in the Natal League as Durban Municipals from 1953 – 1967, Maritzburg Celtic, Olympia, Port Elizabeth City, Randfontein who later changed its name to West Rand United, Shamrocks, Southern Park who later changed to Southern Suburbs, Southern Albion who merged with Florida to form Florida Albion, Vaal United, Victoria 89, Wits University(still playing in the PSL).
But yes, some phenomenal footballers out of this era, many who are still very much active and kicking fully eligible to be picked and play the full 45 minutes. We once saw how healthy they still are on Mzansi Legends hosted by “I am Phumlani Msibi” on SuperSport TV.
Great players also were seen participating in the Federation Professional League (FPL), established in 1959 to allow coloureds and Indians to participate in a competitive league as the apartheid South Africa barred them from playing with black people or white people. Where were the likes of: Deena Naidoo, Sulie Bhamjee, Farouk Abrahams, Howard Freeze, Bernard Hartze, Buddy Govender, Reaz Moorad, Boobie Solomons, Enzo Coopola, Sergio dos Santos and others? In this league there was Cape Town Spurs, Glenville, Bosmont Chelsea, Lighbody's Santos, Swaraj United, Verulam Suburbs, Durban Berea, Manning Rangers, Lenasia Bluebells, Dynamos United, Tongaat Crusaders, Leicester City, Galvindale as the original FPL teams. Later they were joined by Durban City, Cape Town City, Johannesburg Rangers amalgamated with Swaraj United and Durban United amalgamated with Verulam Suburbs to form Suburbs United and many more. But yes, some phenomenal footballers out of this era many who are still active to this day even have what they call FPL Legends League down in Durban. Politics denied footballers before; it shouldn't continue to deny it.
“I played for Orlando Pirates and we were quite a nice mixture of players and then after two years with them the government stepped in and said, 'No, if you are going to persist playing mixed football, then we will no longer give you the municipality stadiums,' and on those basis Pirates said to us: 'Look where are we going to play? We have to offload you guys.' At that time we were 5 or 6 coloured players in the squad of Orlando Pirates.” Bernard “Dancing Shoes” Hartze.
We have come this far with our football; we have a rich history that needs to be told, weather through these games or otherwise. Another historic event was when Vincent Julius who played almost all positions for Mamelodi Sundowns from the 1960s to 1976 was the first ever black player to play in the NFL while league, breaking apartheid laws in 1976 against Highlands Park and even scored on his debut the only goal of the match. These games should trigger more research and curiosity on who were all these people, who they played for and how was it like in those days
All that being said, the point is that SAFA, as the custodians of SA football from all eras, if they are serious about telling the real story of South African football through these games and other means, should organise these Legends like Phumlani Msibi tried to do with his show and form Provincial Legends games (I know it’s already happening down in Durban with the FPL Legends).