The Footballers of Robben Island

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 there is a faded image
the one that still remains*
football on Robben Island
those long forgotten games

2 Leave a comment on verse 2 0 where prisoners followed ev’ry rule
their league and different teams
became a life-line to a sport
they’d only known in dreams
while Nelson stood forbidden
to touch or kick a ball
but from his cell he’d hear them
play and shout and call

3 Leave a comment on verse 3 0 and though we cant imagine
that dreadful time he knew
the football news from far away
would somehow trickle through
and gathered round those radios
so many miles from home
they’d live each moment in their heads
this game they’d loved and known

4 Leave a comment on verse 4 0 but still one image overwhelms
the hatred and the pain
when Nelson made that long long walk
to freedom once again



Editor Note:
*The only known picture that exists and remains of footballers playing on Robben Island, their faces blacked out by government officials
click here : The footballers of Robben Island~BBC

Mandela on football:
“While we were on Robben Island, the only access to the World Cup was on radio. Football was the only joy to prisoners.”
Nelson Mandela ( on football during his years in captivity)

hile everyone knows of Nelson Mandela’s incarceration on Robben Island, what is not so well known is how football helped the players to survive there.

Mandela was barred from taking part, but current South African leader Jacob Zuma was involved.

In 1966, the jail’s league, the Makana FA was set up and in 2007, it was officially recognised by FIFA and given honorary membership of football’s governing body.

Robben Island’s football association has been written about in the book More than Just a Game, which was also turned into a movie

Source: https://footballpoets.org/poems/the-footballers-of-robben-island/