Monthly Archives: September 2016

How Sports Helped End Apartheid


Apartheid was a segregation system in South Africa in which people were divided according to their racial group. There were four racial groups in the country namely the whites, blacks, Indians and coloured. The whites dominated everything and were given more than what the other groups were provided. From medical care to beaches, education and other services, and even the best running sneakers, the white people were always superior to the other races.

This segregation began during the times that the country was under the rule of the Dutch Empire. However, it only became an official system after the election in 1948. In the 1950s, people who were against apartheid started to fight against the system, many of which resulted to violence. Opposing groups were banned and leaders who were fighting against the said system were put to jail. However, the opposition and resistance continued. Reforms were made in the 1980s but this didn’t stop the growing number of people who were fighting against apartheid. President Frederik Willem de Klerk began talks on the end of the apartheid system in 1990. It was abolished the following year, although it was only in 1994 that the non-whites were allowed to participate in the elections. Nelson Mandela was elected the President. He was the first black South African to hold the position.

The Role of Sports in the End of Apartheid

Aside from the resistance and oppositions of the non-whites, sports also played a huge role in the end of the apartheid system. Under the said system, South Africa had different sport institutions that were also based on race. For instance, there were different football institutions for whites, Indians, blacks and coloured during those days. White players had more support and got what they needed compared to the other races. This led the blacks, Indians and coloured to merge and create one football institution in 1951 so they could have more funds by sharing their budget and finances. It was named as the South African Soccer Federation (SASF).

The government even tightens the law concerning the segregation of races, making it even more difficult for these merged groups to play together. Competing in football games also became more challenging after a policy was made that opposed the merging of races in sports. Non-whites were not allowed to participate in international sports competitions and represent their country.

This didn’t stop people who were against apartheid to fight against the system. Media was used to expose the problems that the system had and questioned why non-whites could not join the South African team. Sports united the three racial groups against the white leaders that were not giving them equal rights. This sparked the sports boycotts that international sports organizations made on South Africa, which eventually helped in ending apartheid in sports.

International Sports Organizations that Banned South Africa Due to Apartheid

Several international sports organizations didn’t approve of the racial discriminations going on in the South African sports team. This is the reason why they banned the country from joining their competitions.


Fédération Internationale de Football Association or FIFA suspended South Africa from joining the games in 1963. Proposals for an all-white and all-black team to join in the 1966 and 1970 World Cup respectively were also rejected.

2. Olympics

The International Olympic Committee did not invite South Africa to join the Olympics in 1964. After assuring that their teams would be made up of different races, they were about to be included again in 1968. However, this did not push through as African and other countries threatened to boycott the event if this happened. The country was officially removed from Olympics participation in 1970 as it was against apartheid sports.

3. World Chess Federation

The World Chess Federation expelled South Africa from joining the games as many participants protested against them because of their racial discrimination. It was only in 1992, during which apartheid has already ended, that they started competing again for the Chess Olympiad.

4. Golf

During the 1979 World Cup held in Athens, Greece; South Africa was banned, although they were able to compete again the following year in Caracas. The competition was cancelled the following year in Ireland because of their possible participation. Like with chess, they only joined the competition again in 1992, when apartheid was already abolished.

These were just some of the game organizations and events that banned South Africa from joining because of sports apartheid. This helped in ending the system as it put pressure on the pro-apartheids to end racism and give equal rights to non-whites to participate and represent the South African team.

Also read: How Nelson Mandela’s Dream Lives On