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Soccer in B&W

Leonie Marinovich/Twenty Ten
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Simon "Bull" Lehoko is one of the giants of South African soccer and his career spanned 30 years and included playing for Kaizer Chiefs, as well as coaching and managing Vaal Professionals. In this piece he describes how soccer united black and white during The Struggle in South Africa.


Hay, soccer to me is part and parcel of my life.”
I have lived it for almost, the time I realised that there was something called soccer.

My name is Simon Lehoko. They used to call me Bull.

Imagine three quarters (of the stadium) at the same time calling your name, Like when I cleared the ball they used to say the Bullll… the whole crowd at the same time they called one name.

It sounded marvellous actually, at the same time they said, the BULLLL….

The most difficult game I ever played in my life is the one I think most people still even ask me about.

It was in 1981. After multiracial football was introduced in SA. It was a very very tough hot game and we were still under the rule of the national party and most of these guys, when they are annoyed, they were annoyed by maybe when they were losing.

They used to call people names, hey fucking kaffer, black bastard you… what what, hey! And this hurt us you know and I remember there was a guy there, a very good player, actually he ended up being a pirates fan. He tackled me. Actually they played with 6 studs and I had a deep wound here (inner thigh) and after that he called me fucking shit black kaffer, what what (laughs) so my chance came.

I just kept quiet and when my chance came I gave him a tackle, he flew over me and when he landed, I ran over him.

Generally all the players in the league we used to make friends,

Soccer became the only sport that really contributed towards the downfall of apartheid, especially during the struggle, when people were fighting.

The comrades were saying, no, kill the whites, kill the what-what-what, they were against white people and white rule. But white players were going into townships and they were idolized.

We used to play against them, whilst the laws were saying no, blacks cannot play against a white.

They used to play with us and after the game we would sit with them, they would drink beers and …… the struggle continues after the game.

That’s how football won the people over.

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