DEADLY: Bafana Bafana striker Phil ‘Chippa’ Masinga is challenged by Zambia players during their World Cup qualifier match at Soccer City. Photo: DUIF DU TOIT/Gallo Images
It would be two more years before the first democratic elections and Nelson Mandela became president.
But sport in the country benefited from a quick release from the shackles of apartheid because the ANC’s sports desk gave the go-ahead and because international administrators were eager to welcome the country into world sporting organisations.
Fifa’s dour-faced president Joao Havelange was one of those who pressed for South Africa’s quick inclusion, long before the country even had a new flag, anthem or settled political system.
It was because he wanted soccer to be the first to have active South African representation so that he could beat off his arch-rival Primo Nebiolo, the pint-sized leader of world athletics.
For years the two men tried to outdo each other in terms of sponsorship, international prestige and the number of member nations in their respective organisations. The IAAF always had more members but Fifa more cash from its lucrative World Cup sponsors.
Both men were quick to dash to Johannesburg to be photographed with Mandela and to try get South Africa competing again.
Nebiolo attempted to persuade a team to participate at the 1991 World Athletics Championships in Tokyo but it was felt that was far too soon. But not long after South Africa went to Dakar, Senegal for a symbolic track meet against other African nations that the IAAF had put together.
Football’s statutes made it more difficult to get a South African team up and playing. First membership of Fifa had to be secured before any internationals could be arranged and the entries for the 1994 World Cup had already closed with the preliminary draw conducted.
Havelange, along with his general secretary Sepp Blatter, were at Soccer City in April 1992 to watch a game between a prospective South African team and a “best of the rest” side. Three months later South Africa were given Fifa membership and just days after that played their first game against Cameroon. 20 years ago this week.
Fifa then went and broke their strict World Cup rules for the only time, allowing South Africa backdoor entry to the 1994 preliminaries when Sao Tome e Principe pulled out.
South Africa made its World Cup debut in October 1992, just months after securing membership and gave Havelange the satisfaction of beating Nebiolo to see a South Africa in action.
lThis is the second of our daily pieces marking the 20th anniversary of the country’s readmission to the global game
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