30 June 2009
In the unlikely event of an injury to a referee during the 2010 Fifa World Cup, South Africa has a ready replacement – in President Jacob Zuma, who’s just been given a special award by Fifa for refereeing on Robben Island during his years as a political prisoner.
Zuma refereed for the Makana Football Association, which ran a soccer league for political prisoners on Robben Island, between 1965 and 1973.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter conferred the special award on Zuma on Sunday, the final day of the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup.
“It is a historical moment for Fifa to have a former referee of Robben Island in Mr Jacob Zuma,” Blatter said. “As such, we have decided that you are an International Referee, and that is why we have prepared a special certificate for you.”
“Thank you so much, I appreciate it,” Zuma replied. “This brings back memories of my young days, when I could still play and referee!”
For years on Robben Island, political prisoners had to fight for the right to play football, with men secretly playing the game in their cells with balls made of pieces of paper, cardboard and rags tied together with string.
The island’s authorities finally gave in, granting inmates the right to play football in 1965. The prisoners then built their own goals, and would swap their drab prison garb to play in the colours of their teams on Saturdays.
The Makana FA was formed in 1966. It was a football association which adhered strictly to Fifa’s statutes and laws of the game. On 18 July 2007, Makana FA became the first Fifa honorary member association.
Among the best players on the island were the likes of Kgalema Motlanthe, currently Deputy President of South Africa. Dikgang Moseneke, now a Constitutional Court judge, was on Makana FA’s disciplinary committee.
SAinfo reporter and Fifa.com