Showing the Way

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 In September 1899,
Around the time of the Boer War,
A group of young South Africans
Arrived on England’s shore…
It did not seem significant,
Twas just a football team,
But they created history
When Victoria was our Queen.

2 Leave a comment on verse 2 0 In orange shirts and black shorts,
Wearing boots without a stud,
These players struggled manfully
Through the cold wet rain and mud…
Their grounds at home were hard and dry,
Dusty brown instead of green,
So it was like another world
To this gallant football team.

3 Leave a comment on verse 3 0 They played all of fifty matches,
Winning only a single game,
But that’s of little consequence,
Certainly no cause for shame…
For the team showed they were gentlemen,
And what you sow you reap,
‘Orange Free State Kaffir Football Club’
Proved that colour is just skin deep.


The team, known in those days as the ‘Orange Free State Kaffir Football Club’, consisted entirely of Black players and was the first football team from South Africa to tour overseas. This is significant when one considers that the country subsequently created the formal racial segregation system of ‘Apartheid’ and only became a non-racial democracy 95 years later.

In England they played against first class amateur and professional teams, losing all 49 games. Although generally treated hospitably, they were also mocked and ridiculed by some people and newspapers, but rose above this denigration with dignity. On their way back to South Africa the team played a match in France which they won.

The term “Kaffir” is used in this poem and these notes only to refer to the name of the team at that time and not in any other context.

With acknowledgement to “The 1899 Orange Free State football team tour of Europe: ‘Race’, imperial loyalty and sporting contest” by Chris Bolsmann of the School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Editor Note: Thanks Llew.
This is an important account and is also the Football Poets on Facebook Poem of the Week . To see a great image of the team taken in 1899 visit our Football Poet on Facebook page and click here :
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Source: http://footballpoets.org/poems/showing-the-way/