• Offside: Kick Ignorance Out! Football Unite, Racism Divides

    The 1899 Basotho
    Tourists: the first South African tour to the United Kingdom

    The cartoon, taken from The Football Echo Sports and Gazette, 2 September, 1899, depicted the first South African football tour to the UK. The ‘tourists’ were treated as a curiosity by the British media and were a source of great ridicule. However, when the South African War was about to be declared the players were treated with more respect by the British press, who realised that the Basotho may become allies during the war. The cartoon was used to illustrate the relationship between politics and sports.

    The cartoon caption reads: Poor John! He’s been suffering all the summer from a severe attack of Kanga-Roomatism, and just as he’s shaken it off, and is preparing to settle down to the placid calm of the Football Season, up come Eleven Little Nigger Boys from Savage South Africa, who propose to perfect him in the gentle art of Football. “This,” reflected John, “this is what comes of having colonies.”

    Arthur Wharton

    Accra, Gold Coast to a Wesleyan missionary family, but was largely schooled in Britain. He was the first black player to play professional football in Britain and also the unofficial first fastest man in the world, having run the 100 yards in ten seconds.
    He was known in British football circles for his agility and speed, but also as a keeper with a “prodigious punch”. During the 1890s he became known for his unique ‘crossbar save’ when he grabbed the crossbar and caught the ball between his legs causing the oncoming forwards to rush into and collapse into the net. Instead of commenting on Wharton’s footballing skill and audacity many observers compared Wharton’s agility to that of a monkey.

    Offside comic book

    This comic book was based on several of the biographies featured in the Offside exhibition. It encapsulated the range of experiences of South African footballers in Britain. It explored issues around racism, segregation and hate speech, stereotyping and
    xenophobia.

    Offside tunnel

    The Offside tunnel led onto the field of play, presenting a timeline of South African players who travelled to the UK to play football.

    Eudy ‘Styles’ Simelane

    Simelane achieved cult status in her community for her footballing prowess as a Banyana Banyana captain and for living openly as a lesbian. She was subjected to ‘corrective rape’ and murdered in 2008.

    Simelane started playing organised football at school in the township of KwaTembe where she grew up. She played for the local Spring Home Sweepers FC and her talent brought her national recognition when she was selected to play for Banyana as a twenty-one year old in 1998. Eudy played for the national team until 2006 when she retired from the international game. Even after her retirement, she remained involved in the sport she loved as a coach and a referee.

    Eddie Firmani

    A contemporary of Steve ‘Kalamazoo’ Mokone who also played in Italy, Firmani was regarded by the Italian media as being a lesser player than his countryman, yet received far more opportunities as a player and a coach in world football.
    Firmani was born in Cape Town in 1933 and started playing football at the oldest existing club in the city, Clyde FC. His career spanned the UK, Italy and North America.