Sport in South Africa was not immune to the apartheid ideology, as it was racialized along colour lines. Indians, Coloureds, whites and Africans competed separately in various codes of sports. Africans were particularly successful in soccer, rugby, boxing, cricket and tennis. 

What was particularly interesting was that in rural areas sports was played across colour line. My introduction to sports evolved from the little village of Cala which at the time was quite racially integrated and as children we played sports at school and in the community with kids from across the colour line. I recall the first football match I watched was between a team known as Xalanga Blues and a team composed of whites and coloureds.

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Subsequently some of the coloured players joined Xalanga Blues to form one of the most formidable teams to have emerged from the Cala Village. This was in the 1970’s at the height of the implementation of the apartheid ideology but teams from the farming towns of Elliot and Barkly East were frequent visitors to our village to compete with our rugby and tennis teams.

Competition was quite intense and I recall that in some instances matches could not be completed as fighting would erupt due to controversial refereeing decisions or sometimes fighting amongst the competitors.

Football became the most popular sport in the 1970’s, this was as a result of influx of students from various parts of South Africa who came to pursue education at Matanzima High School now Bathandwa Ndondo and Arthur Tsengiwe High School which later became known as Cala High School.

A lot of these students were from Bloemfontein, Kimberley , Cape Town , Johannesburg and Krugersdorp. Saturdays they would play for their school teams and on Sundays join the local team which was Xalanga Blues at the time. There exciting high school derbies between Matanzima and Cala High school which sometimes led to fighting amongst the student fans and players.

Matches between St Johns College from Umtata used to draw huge crowds of fans who drawn  by the prospect of watching great players like the late Shoes Ngcwabe, Trinity Zokwe, Sipho Rani and Lloyd Mhlungu from St John’s College and your late Bricks “ Scara” Faas , Duma Rani ( Sipho Rani”s brother) and the inimitable George “ Zero” Mbi from Kimberley.

Most of the players could have walked into any professional team at the time but focused on their studies and played sports as an extra-mural activity. Their influence greatly permeated and influenced the behavior of young and aspirant footballers from our village. Alcohol and drugs, which are the toast of the day as we speak were never in the lexicon of young boys in the town. Most of the village boys wanted to be a “Maria, Maria”, “Zero” or a Duma Rani.

Rugby was ably led by an old man called Mzalwane or Ntshantsheli and teachers like the late Mr Tsengiwe, Mr Msengana and Mr Green from Barkly East who was employed by the Cala Municipality. This team was knitted by a very able sports administrator a Mr David Mfebe who was an accomplished tennis player and a general sports lover.

Cala was generally a hotbed of sport even when Transkei was granted the so called independence and competed fiercely with teams from towns such as Butterworth, Umtata, Dutywa, Lady Frere, Mt Frere, Sterkspruit and Tsomo.

It was during the independence period that boxing as a sport took root through the efforts of a boxer known as Slashing Tiger from Burgersdorp. He nurtured the sport to a point where he managed to produce a few champions were to represent the Transkei homeland during the SA games which featured all the homelands at the time.

Boxers such as the late Lubabalo Ndletyana and Maraza Xakwe held the village flag high and became the toasts of the homeland boxing scene. On the tennis front, there were a number of players left an indelible imprint on the tennis courts of the homeland. Luvuyo Gobodo was a star tennis player and competed effectively with all comers on that front. He reached the tennis finals during the SA games in 1979.

One is now saddened by the decline in all forms in the rural areas of Cala, when there are greater opportunities for sports development in the country. There are coaching opportunities aplenty for people to grow themselves and also develop new sports stars.

Sports bodies are interested in developing a pool of players to select from who could be included in representative South African teams. Such opportunities are spurned by young talented players who prefer to frequent the liquor venues that dot the Cala firmament.  Efforts have made to resurrect the famous soccer teams but such efforts are frustrated by greed and self aggrandizement on the part of the leaders of these efforts.

It is quite sad that Cala has no representation in the PSL and the Glad Africa championship since the demise of Cala Vanguard who at one point were competing in the then Mvela League. There does not seem to be any effort to revive the sport for genuine sports reason other than economic reasons hence the high levels of drinking and thuggery in that village.

It is almost the same in other former Transkei towns, great teams like Bush Bucks, Tembu Royals, Amampondo , Roaring Tigers, Fingo Chiefs, Blackburn Rovers and Ngcobo Royals are a shadow of themselves . An effort is required to set up a committee to look into how these great teams could be revived and sports in the Transkei part of the Eastern Cape could again be made fashionable.

I am not excluding other areas such as Elliot, Barkly East, Sterkspruit and Aliwal North as there is lot of talent in all those areas as evidenced by latent talent that at one time were toasts of the PSL such as Bongani Ndulula. The potential is there all that is needed is commitment to nurture and develop it.

Written by: Mpilo Makiwane