While being in South Africa we had time to visit one ground and one ground only. We could have gone to the Cape Town Stadium, newly built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Green Point Stadium, right next to the Cape Town Stadium and old home ground of Ajax Cape Town FC, or even the Athlone Stadium, home ground of Santos FC and an absolute gem in our opinion. But instead we chose to visit a lost ground on an island near Cape Town; the Robben Island and its former state prison.
This is one of the very few lost grounds for which we are very glad it’s a lost ground due to its history. But that history also makes it pretty unique. Being toured around by one of the former inmates, he gave detailed information about how they got football organised on the island. For years inmates tried to have their precious spare time filled with football, but the prison authorities forbid the game. Slowly the game was allowed. In December 1964 the first match was played and by 1966 a full league was implemented.
This was also the year Makana Football Association was founded, named after the warrior/prophet Makana, who himself was imprisoned on the island over a century before date. There were three leagues with nine teams in each league and over half of the inmates took part in playing football. A small group of prisoners however were banned from playing or even watching games by the prison authorities, including Nelson Mandela.
Everything was run by or made by the inmates themselves. Talking about love for the game or what. As of 1973 there were less games again, but the FA remained active until 1991, the year Robben Island stopped hosting a prison and all political prisoners were released. Some of the better known former players are the current South African president Jacob Zuma and minister Tokyo Sexwale.
The FIFA gave Makana FA honorary membership in 2007 and the same year the movie “More Than Just A Game” was released telling the tale of Makana FA. Manong was the most successful team having won two of the four championships and presumably the other two as well (the last two seasons weren’t well documented). On this link you can find most of the results - http://www.rsssf.com/tablesz/zafmakanachamp.html.