In November 1899 the first team from the African continent visited White Hart Lane. They were from Bloemontein, Orange Free State and were the first South African football team to tour outside their country, although a cricket team had. They would play forty nine games in a four month spell. This was when travel was by ship and tours meant tours. To put this in perspective the FA had under taken its own first tour that summer (1) and Tottenham wouldn’t venture into main land Europe till 1905, (2).
All the accounts of the tour and press coverage in both countries referred to them throughout as The Kaffirs or the Kaffir touring XI. It was only by exploring a history of South African football at the time you discover that they should have been referred to as a the Bantu club or possibly a Basuto XI.
The Spurs game was played on a Monday afternoon, November 27th and Tottenham would win by 6-4, our goals coming from Kirwan (top) and Raby 2 each, Melia and Stormont, with only six of the side that day appearing in the next league game.
The London Evening Standard told the reader ‘The tourist’s first game in the Metropolis and upwards of 4,000 attended and witnessed a somewhat novel experience. The Spurs played a mixed team but their forwards were too strong for the visitors although they contented themselves to keep on terms. Each side scored twice in the first half. Directly after the interval the dusky footballers got the lead and for some time prevented the Spurs from equalizing. Then the Kaffirs gained a fourth goal, the home team during the second half dispensing with a goalkeeper. Towards the close however the Spurs put in three goals and a match which could by no means be taken seriously ended in the favor of Tottenham Hotspur.’
While the Tottenham and Stamford Hill Times said ‘several of the men showed excellent staying power and speed’ and ‘among the visitors praise is especially due to the goalkeeper who saved brilliantly at times and who we understand has been approached with a view of enlistment in one of the first league teams, (3).’
Just how good were the visitors? Well The Football Echo announced ‘the latest football sensation’ and wondered ‘what sort of football will these dark beauties play.’ Once the tour was underway we learn that ‘the players are of strong physique’ and are ‘big powerful men with a rare turn of speed and of considerable individual skill.’ They were however not up to the standard of their various hosts. They did win many friends with a combination of their style of play (they only failed to score in one game but only won one game) and their support for England in the Boar War which was raging at the time.
I have no wish to explore the deeper social undercurrents but not all welcomed the tour and the South African press referred to them as more fit for the hippodrome while a letter to The Times states they ‘should not be seen as a standard of football in the country as they would not be allowed to play white teams at home and the that the visitors would not be use to the standard of pitch they experienced or even to playing on grass. Nor were many of the tourists use to wearing boots and those that did would not include studs.’ Nor were all the English press impressed, reporting a game in the North of the country saying ‘no arrangements had been made to exclude ladies from witnessing the games.’
Note – This article was written several years ago but lay unused as I was unable to track down a pic of the team which I knew existed. It recently came to light and this piece is now released on the 118th anniversary of the game.
t- Keith 16024542
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Thanks to - Bob Goodwin, Phil Sour, The Manchester Times, Scottish Sport, The Northern Echo, Cape Angus, Cape Times, The Orange Free State FA, C. Bolsmann, The Friend, The SA FA, Spurting Life, Richmond Times, Berkshire Chronicle, Newcastle Chronicle, Liverpool daily Post,
Notes - 1 - To be covered in the forthcoming Connections - Germany series.
2The Early Tours - http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-the-early-tours
3 – The chaps name was Adolph but I cant tell you if he did join a league club, some reports claim he did stay behind when the rest sailed home.
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