Soccer in South Africa is a strong competitor for national dominance against rugby or cricket. This is largely as soccer has always been the favoured sport in black communities which make up the majority of the South African population. Unfortunately South Africa has yet to prove itself as a dominating global powerhouse in soccer as it has with both rugby and cricket. However, soccer continues to be greatly appreciated and maintains a huge following. South Africa is able to play to a competitive level in soccer against other African nations that don’t play the other major team games. As the game requires little cost outlay or equipment it is a practical sport in impoverished areas and it is an all too common sight to see groups of children playing in and around township areas.
Traditionally, despite it’s wide based following, soccer struggled to gain recognition in the South Africa of yester-year. The lack of facilities, funding and interest from a government level during this era did not affect the constant growth of street soccer. In the post 1994 South Africa however, soccer has been given a new lease of life. Its development has been enthusiastically supported by the ANC as the national sport for Africans. This automatically seemed to put the sport into an unspoken competition with rugby. South Africa hosted and won the African Cup of Nations in 1996, following hot on the heals of the Rugby World Cup win in 1995. Despite this early promise, Bafana Bafana (the name of South Africa’s national soccer team) has struggled to gain global acclaim. Other African nations such as Tunisia, Cameroon and Ghana have a history of performing better on average. South Africa’s domestic soccer remains a constant source of strength for the game, with some players such as Lucas Radebe going on to play for clubs in Europe and the English Premier League.
The PSL (Premier Soccer League) was established in 1997 to regulate and develop a systematic league for the domestic teams in South Africa. While glamour clubs such as Orlando Pirates and Kaiser Chiefs had existed some time before no domestic tournament was held. At present the PSL consists of the best 16 clubs in the country who now play each other in a well-organized table structure that results in one team becoming an annual champion. The PSL has been instrumental in gaining substantial sponsorship which has given great financial freedom for the game to grow. Additionally, other domestic competitions are the MTN 8, the Telkom Knockout Cup and the Nedbank Cup which is noted as paying out the largest amount of prize money for any soccer tournament in Africa. The boom of regional soccer in South Africa in recent years has become an immense source of pride to the communities those teams represent. The strengthening of local soccer culminated with South Africa hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. With the world’s largest sporting event taking place, the country went through a rapid development of the local soccer infrastructure. New stadiums were built and older ones renovated. While the World Cup has come and gone it generated a great deal of income for the country, encouraged further growth of the game and set up an infrastructure to greatly benefit the domestic teams.