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However, all these historical facts don't mean that football was just a way to confront apartheid. People played football to forget about poverty and a constant pressure.
Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that. Bill Shankly
The history of the professional soccer in South Africa didn't begin in 2010 when the country hosted the FIFA World Cup. It also didn't start in 1994 with an end of the apartheid era. Everything began much earlier when the British military servers brought the 'beautiful game' to South Africa in the middle of the 19th century.
Football has never been just an entertainment for the South African nation. Soccer became their background for a political resistance, a way to express themselves, and an important reason to evolve.
The local population of South Africa really loved the game, brought to the country by the British. By the beginning of the 20th century, several non-white-only soccer teams activated in the country. One of them — the all-black Orange Free State Bantu F.C. — even expressed itself outside the continent. In 1898, they toured England, where they played with much stronger and more experienced British clubs. Despite losing permanently, they still managed to score in almost each of the matches.
During almost all the 20th century, the 'white' and 'black' football had been developing separately. However, the native Africans, Coloureds, and Indians often united to form the interracial soccer associations and leagues. In 1935, they established the Suzman Cup — the first interracial competition in the country. In 1951, they formed the anti-apartheid SASF (South African Soccer Federation). Ten years later, the first interracial soccer league (SASL) appears.
However, all these historical facts don't mean that football was just a way to confront apartheid. People played football to forget about poverty and a constant pressure. For a few skilled players, such as David Julius, Stephen Mokone, and Darius Dhlomo, soccer was a chance to leave the country and join the European clubs. Moreover, some of them returned to their native land and contributed to the further soccer development, like Kaizer Motaung, who founded Kaizer Chiefs in 1971, after his return from the USA.
In the mid-1980s, when South Africa became much closer to equality and democracy, and the anti-apartheid NSL (National Soccer League) was formed, football started transforming from the means of a struggle to a reason for the all-national pride.
Luckily, soccer has significantly evolved since the 1990s, when the apartheid era was put to an end. In 1992, FIFA welcomed South Africa back to the international football (earlier, the country was suspended due to the political reasons). A brand-new, multiracial Bafana Bafana won their significant first international game against Cameroon. It didn't take long to see the first major trophy — the African Nations' Cup, lifted by South Africans in 1996. In the same year, the Premier Soccer League also appeared.
Nowadays, South Africa has one of the strongest domestic leagues on a respective continent. The local clubs, such as Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates, show an incredibly strong performance in the international arena. And when South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2010, it became clear: the racial segregation has finally melted. On the pitch and on the stadium, we're all equal and happy.
South African people like nobody else know, how to enjoy soccer. There are almost 1,5 million registered players in the country. However, according to the statistics, more than 4,5 million South Africans play football on a permanent basis.
The majority of the South Africans are the passionate football fans. The country is proud of its biggest stadiums — the Soccer City (94736 capacity) and the Ellis Park Stadium (62567 capacity). At the stadium, wearing the makarapa and playing the vuvuzela, the fans are as united as never before.
There is another modern way to enjoy soccer — placing the soccer bets. The South Africans used to do it at the betting shops, but the modern betting platforms (such as YesPlay) allow to do it online. Fans bet not only on the widely preferred PSL but also on the major European competitions, such as the Premier League.
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