The Atlantic Raiders affair.This is the true story of how the political prisoners of South Africa's infamous Robben Island turned football into an active force in their struggle for freedom. Despite torture, regular beatings and backbreaking back·break·ing
Demanding great exertion; arduous and exhausting.
backbreak labour, these extraordinary men defied all odds and played organized league football in one of the ugliest and most brutal hellholes on earth. Even more astonishingly a·ston·ish
tr.v. as·ton·ished, as·ton·ish·ing, as·ton·ish·es
To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. See Synonyms at surprise. , they played the game for nearly 20 years with strict adherence to FIFA FIFA International Association Football Federation [French Fédération Internationale de Football Association]
FIFA n abbr (= Fédération Internationale de Football Association) → FIFA f rules.
Told through the eyes of former prisoners, this factual account chronicles their arrival on the island, their years of ceaseless campaigning to be allowed to play on an abandoned patch of land, the creation and success of the Makana Football Association and their triumph over the prison authorities every time their right to play the beautiful game was threatened. But as the football league grew in popularity, so did the challenges, forcing the prisoners to not only wrestle with the apartheid establishment, but also to manage themselves.
This incredible story celebrates bravery and heroism and shows how sport has the power to unite and overcome adversity.
'We lost to a hopeless side and we had to get some concessions for the sake of our pride.' Benny Ntoele, Prisoner 287/63
In the prison kitchens, Freddie Simon was on the look-out for food to smuggle smug·gle
v. smug·gled, smug·gling, smug·gles
1. To import or export without paying lawful customs charges or duties.
2. To bring in or take out illicitly or by stealth. out. Now that the daily diet had improved a little on the island, thanks to pressure from prisoners and the International Red Cross, the men were occasionally given eggs and vegetables, and more of the fish and chicken that went into the drums of maize maize: see corn. porridge was proper meat rather than fat, bone, and gristle gristle: see cartilage. , so the pickings were a lot richer.
They needed to be. Manong FC was holding a clandestine victory party, an extraordinary and unheard of Not heard of; of which there are no tidings.
Unknown to fame; obscure.
See also: Unheard Unheard event in the prison. It was to celebrate its triumph in the championship. Other prisoners had helped out with supplies too. A couple of guinea fowl guinea fowl (gĭn`ē), common name for any of the seven species of gallinaceous birds of the family Numididae, native to Africa and Madagascar. had been caught, and a dozen or so sea gull's eggs had been foraged from the beach, but Freddie and his friends in the kitchens, sympathetic common- law prisoners, had been charged with providing the lion's share.
On the evening of the party, in June 1970, the smuggled food was distributed to the team and their guests across the various cell blocks, and there was a great deal of backslapping. How loud the celebrations became depended on which of the guards were on duty: some enjoyed supporting football on the island and turned a blind eye, but others were far less sympathetic, and would come down on the party like a ton of bricks. In the cell blocks they patrolled that night, the inmates kept the noise levels down.
The Manong players had made a point of inviting fellow prisoners to join in with their celebrations, and most took it in good humour Noun 1. good humour - a cheerful and agreeable mood
amiability, good humor, good temper
humour, mood, temper, humor - a characteristic (habitual or relatively temporary) state of feeling; "whether he praised or cursed me depended on his temper at the time"; - there were certainly few enough reasons to celebrate in Robben Island Prison. Some, however, saw the invitation as nothing more than a chance for Manong to show off. In their eyes, the club was getting above itself, and its arrogance was beginning to extend well beyond the pitch. Manong FC was taling itself up, the players saying just how much they themselves rated their skills and how far ahead they were of any other team on the island. They had a point: the statistics proved it, as did the consistently expansive style they'd employed throughout the season.
As they chattered and congratulated themselves and each other, the seed of an idea began to develop. Manong's players decided they weren't being given the competition that their talents deserved. The solution they came up with would indirectly trigger a chain of events that would come close to destroying everything that the Makana Football Association was trying to create and cause disharmony dis·har·mo·ny
1. Lack of harmony; discord.
2. Something not in accord; a conflict: "the disharmonies that assail the most fortunate of mortals" Peter Gay. among those in the prison community that would continue to rankle ran·kle
v. ran·kled, ran·kling, ran·kles
1. To cause persistent irritation or resentment.
2. To become sore or inflamed; fester.
v.tr. for thirty years.
One evening soon after the victory party, Tony Suze and a handful of fellow Manong club members sat down to compose a letter to the football association. They wrote that the team had been thinking for a long time about the quality of football on the island; it had improved, but the club wanted to encourage an even greater performance at the top level and suggested that a team be selected specifically to play against Manong. The implication was clear only a group of the best players chosen from across all the other teams would be fit to compete against Manong Football Club.
The MFA responded in measured tones, letting Manong know that, if any special match were to be played, the offer would come from the MFA. Privately, senior MFA officials such as Dikgang Moseneke and Indress Naidoo were disconcerted dis·con·cert
tr.v. dis·con·cert·ed, dis·con·cert·ing, dis·con·certs
1. To upset the self-possession of; ruffle. See Synonyms at embarrass.
2. by the condescending attitude of some of the Manong club's members.
The letter sent by Manong didn't achieve the result it was aiming for, but it did focus attention on one thing that was becoming difficult to ignore: Manong's dominance was indeed becoming a problem. It was head and shoulders above the other teams, and this was not only making a mockery of the association's desire to offer meaningful sport at all levels of ability but was also, in some quarters, affecting the general level of enthusiasm for football.
By November 1970, the fight to win the A division's second championship seemed like an extended instance of deja vu See DjVu. . Seven games into the season, six wins on the board, Manong was once again streets ahead at the top of the table - and this despite the absence of their star player, Tony Suze, out of the game due to a damaged knee, an injury sustained in a collision with the Ditsitsiri goalkeeper in an A- division match almost two months earlier.
The tone of the letter from Manong had annoyed the executives of the MFA, but they took the point that interest in football was lower than in the past. The MFA decided to take a dramatic step to revive enthusiasm by introducing a new knock-out cup competition. Players were to form their own teams from within their own cell blocks. Rather than creating a more level playing field See net neutrality. , however, this decision was to have the unintended consequence For the 1996 novel by John Ross, see .
Unintended consequences are situations where an action results in an outcome that is not (or not only) what is intended. The unintended results may be foreseen or unforeseen, but they should be the logical or likely results of the of highlighting even more starkly the players' differences in ability and creating a situation that threatened the existence of the MFA.
As well as the Manong players, some of the best footballers from the other clubs lived in cell block C4. These players came together and formed a club, the Atlantic Raiders, for the new cup competition. It was made up of the cream of the island's players, all from the top five clubs in the league table, including Tony Suze, Freddie Simons, Benny Ntoele, Moses Masemola, and Ernest Malgas. It was never clear if the Atlantic Raiders represented cell block C4 or if they were a group of footballers who just happened to be sparing a cell together. This seemingly trivial distinction would cause a huge amount of distress for both the MFA and the island community over the next few months.
The Atlantic Raiders took it for granted that they would win the new competition. They had a greater ambition: they wanted to show the rest of the island how good they were as individual players and how spectacular they were as a team. Their intention was not just to win, but to win with flair.
There may have been a degree of hubris Hubris
An arrogance due to excessive pride and an insolence toward others. A classic character flaw of a trader or investor. in their intent, but these were committed footballers playing matches behind razor wire after a week of punishing hard labour in a stone quarry. They had few opportunities to express themselves or to experience a sense of achievement.
Football had given them a rare outlet. In terms of their own sense of self-respect, what happened out on the pitch was of massive importance.
In the first round the Atlantic Raiders were drawn against a team called Blue Rocks. Normally, betting in the cell blocks, with cigarettes and tobacco, was frenzied before big matches, but not this time. Only a fool would bet against the Raiders. Blue Rocks was a makeshift team of older, less talented players. One of the Raiders described their opponents as `nobodies'. To make an analogy with the broader world of football, it was as if Manchester United, playing at full strength, had been drawn against the team from the local pub. The question was not whether the Atlantic Raiders would win, only by how many goals.
On the day of the match, the Blue Rocks players looked on with unease as the Raiders warmed up. Individually, the players had skills and tricks in abundance and, more than anything, they exuded total and complete confidence. Tony Suze was particularly pumped up, having just recently returned from two months on the sidelined. The assembled pavvy settled down to watch the match, certain that it was going to be a walkover. Even before kick-off, everybody was feeling sorry for Blue Rocks.
The match started at 1 o'clock on 21 November 1970. Playing conditions were perfect: intermittent sunshine and blue skies. Against all the odds, a Blue Rocks breakaway in the first few minutes of the match ended up in a scrambled goal. The Raiders players protested passionately that the goal was clearly offside off·side also off·sides
adv. & adj.
1. Sports Illegally ahead of the ball or puck in the attacking zone.
2. and had involved a handball. - and then the fun began. The older team was jubilant, and determined to hang on to their advantage.
They took up a 10-0-0 formation that brought new meaning to the phrase `defensive rearguard rearguard
1. the troops who protect the rear of a military formation
2. rearguard action an effort to prevent or postpone something that is unavoidable
Noun 1. action'. Blue Rocks packed their penalty area, and any Raiders ball that came into them was immediately hacked out into touch or as far up the field as possible. There was little pretence at playing football - with a totally unexpected goal in the bank against the best team on the island, Blue Rocks had decided their tactics: dogged survival. It wasn't pretty by any standards, and infuriated in·fu·ri·ate
tr.v. in·fu·ri·at·ed, in·fu·ri·at·ing, in·fu·ri·ates
To make furious; enrage.
Furious. the footballing purists on the Atlantic Raiders team. As the crowd's cheers for the Blue Rocks grew louder, the Raiders players' tempers began to fray.
After repeated barracking, and renewed complaints from Raiders players about the alleged missed-handball decision, the referee decided he'd taken enough abuse and stormed off the pitch. A new match official was hastily brought on. In the chaos that ensued, it was never clear who had appointed the referee or even if he was qualified, but no one was paying any attention to that at the time. What was important was the spectacle that was unfolding and the possibility of a memorable result. After a lengthy delay, the match continued. Puffing and blowing as they threw their ageing bodies in front of wave after wave of Raiders attackers, the unlikely heroes of Blue Rocks hung on to win 1-0.
For the crowd, the whole thing was priceless. The old men of Blue Rocks had turned the best players on the island into a laughing stock laughing stock
a person or thing that is treated with ridicule
noun figure of fun, target, victim, butt, fair game, Aunt Sally Brit. . The Atlantic Raiders, however, were incensed. They surrounded the match officials, and continued their protests all the way back to the cell blocks. Their self-esteem had suffered a damaging blow. After all, they had a certain status in the prison as talented footballers, and were admired and supported by hundreds of other inmates. On top of that, the goal should not have been allowed. The Atlantic Raiders decided to make their complaint official.
The next day, they came out with all guns blazing. The opening sally was a strongly worded letter sent to the MFA by Tony's good friend, Sedick Isaacs, now out of solitary and the non-playing secretary of the Raiders club. The letter displayed both Sedick's talent for wordplay and his bent towards litigation An action brought in court to enforce a particular right. The act or process of bringing a lawsuit in and of itself; a judicial contest; any dispute.
When a person begins a civil lawsuit, the person enters into a process called litigation. .
Knowing the FIFA rules as he did, Sedick was well aware that the Makena Football Association's constitution required that any complaint had to be registered immediately after the irregularity A defect, failure, or mistake in a legal proceeding or lawsuit; a departure from a prescribed rule or regulation.
An irregularity is not an unlawful act, however, in certain instances, it is sufficiently serious to render a lawsuit invalid. had been 'observed' - in other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , straight after the match. The Raiders captain Freddie Simon should have filed a protest when the whistle blew on the Blue Rocks game but, with all the angry post-match arguments and frustration, he had neglected to lodge his complaint.
Sedick's means of getting around this inconvenient truth was to refer to the Oxford Dictionary, which defines 'observe' as become conscious of '. The case for the Raiders was based on the assertion that it had taken them a matter of days fully to understand or 'observe' the gravity of the injustice infficted upon them. In any case, they thought the issue was so important (and by extension, that the Raiders were so important) that any time limit should be waived by the MFA.
Sedick then turned to the facts in question and placed the blame on the referee for not applying the offside rule correctly and ignoring a handball violation. He accused the referee of treating the match as a joke and ignoring the decades-old protocols of organized football. After the referee had cost the Raiders a goal, Sedick wrote in the letter, he 'unceremoniously' walked off the field, leaving chaos in his wake. He had done everything he could to hurt the Raiders. Such conduct had to be addressed, and Isaacs claimed that FIFA regulations (Holy Scripture to the island football community) in this case demanded nothing less than a full replay of the match.
The letter expressed the Raiders' hope that the issue could be settled amicably but then took on a more threatening tone, warning the MFA that the Raiders were briefing a panel of men to act as their advocates. They wanted fair treatment and were prepared to go as far as it took to obtain it. When the officials of the MFA read the letter they were concerned that the Raiders were acting like lawyers, not sportsmen. They had no way of knowing that what the Raiders had in mind was something much more dramatic and unsettling un·set·tle
v. un·set·tled, un·set·tling, un·set·tles
1. To displace from a settled condition; disrupt.
2. To make uneasy; disturb.
v.intr. than raising a mere legal challenge to the actions of a referee.
There was much more at stake for the Atlantic Raiders than that. The best players had been embarrassed. They had lost to what Benny Ntoele described as a `bunch of nothings' and they didn't know how to cope with that. It didn't help that so many of their comrades on the island were so obviously delighted to have seen them lose to a team that had, comparatively, no talent and, apparently, no chance of winning. The Atlantic Raiders were going to fight their case to the end.
Given the raised passions, the best thing for all concerned would have been a cooling-off period An interval of time during which no action of a specific type can be taken by either side in a dispute. An automatic delay in certain jurisdictions, apart from ordinary court delays, between the time when Divorce papers are filed and the divorce hearing takes place. . The Raiders would have had a chance to regain their composure, and officials could have looked further into the debacle with the referees. Unfortunately, just as the Raiders' letter was making its way to the MFA officials, the fixture list for the second ro-und of the cup competition was delivered to each cell. The men in cell block C4 were outraged. There it was in black and white: Blue Rocks would be playing the Carlton team in the next round. It was obvious that there was no question of the match between the
Atlantic Raiders and Blue Rocks being replayed. Tony, Sedick, and the rest of the Raiders were furious.
For their part, the officials at the MFA could not understand why they should bend their procedures just to mollify mol·li·fy
tr.v. mol·li·fied, mol·li·fy·ing, mol·li·fies
1. To calm in temper or feeling; soothe. See Synonyms at pacify.
2. To lessen in intensity; temper.
3. the damaged pride of the Raiders. The MFA thought that any dispute would be handled in the course of events, while the Raiders thought that the issuing of the fixture list meant that the MFA had rendered a decision on their protest before even reading it.
On 28 November the Raiders fired off another letter to the MFA, this time accusing it of `gross irregularity', of violating its own rules, and ignoring any evidence that supported the claims made by the Raiders.
Each action taken by the MFA seemed more dismissive than the previous one. The Raiders were convinced that the MFA had no intention of giving their case a fair hearing. Furthermore, their cellmates in C4 began to think of it as a struggle that should involve the whole of C4, not just the Raiders. It was becoming a matter of us versus them, `them' being the executives of the football association the prisoners had fought so hard to create.
The Blue Rocks v Carlton game was scheduled for that coming Saturday, 5 December. The Raiders were, however, determined to get some satisfaction from the MFA. On 3 December Isaacs wrote a letter demanding a meeting before the second-round cup match was played. The letter concluded with a phrase that became the topic of fevered conversation among the prisoners for months: failing which, full methods of duress duress (dy`rĭs, d`–, d shall have to be employed'.
The last sentence of the letter was both ambiguous and threatening. It left MFA officials worried about what the Atlantic Raiders might have in mind. Instead of seeking a meeting with the Raiders as a whole, on the eve On the Eve (Накануне in Russian) is the third novel by famous Russian writer Ivan Turgenev, best known for his short stories and the novel Fathers and Sons. of the Blue Rocks v Carlton game, 4 December, they called the captain, Freddie Simon, and vice-captain, Lucas Mahlonga, in for an interview, and asked them repeatedly what that phrase in the letter meant What were they planning? The men refused to enlighten the MFA. Uncertain about what the Raiders might do next, nonetheless the footbail association was not about to be blackmailed. Its officials pointed out to Simon and Mahlonga that they would be held directly responsible for anything that might happen.
The next day, Mahlonga withdrew from all team activities. He of course knew exactly what his comrades were planning, and he was starting to have serious misgivings.
Late in the morning on 5 December, the giant-killing Blue Rocks players trotted happily out for their second-round match in the new cup competition. They were pleased to see a big crowd of prisoners ringing the touchlines but, very quickly, they became aware that most of them weren't there to support Blue Rocks or, indeed, Carlton. Word had got around the cell blocks that something extraordinary was about to happen.
As the Blue Rocks players began to warm up, eight members of the Atlantic Raiders, including Tony Suze, Freddie Simon, and Benny Ntoele, strode out on to the pitch and lay face down in the centre circle. Both players and fans were stunned. This was an unprecedented and highly charged act of defiance - and a dangerous one at that. Up in the watchtowers, the guards had become aware of the protest and were starting to get twitchy twitch·y
adj. twitch·i·er, twitch·i·est
1. Characterized by jerky or spasmodic motion: the twitchy whiskers of a cat.
2. Nervous; jittery. . The seriousness of the situation slowly dawned on both the players and the assembled prisoners.
The true spectators, who had been looking forward to the week's match, were angry. They felt cheated. Not only that, there might be a brawl, a riot even and, if that happened, the Raiders' protest could turn really nasty. The guards on Robben Island had never been backward in resorting to violence and, under such provocation, anything could happen and it could result in a total ban on football on the island. What were the Raiders doing?
The men understood that the Raiders players were making a peaceful protest but, equally, they knew that the prison authorities needed no excuse to wade in with batons and guns if the situation escalated. The protesters just had to hope against hope that those circling the pitch would control themselves. They were relying on their comrades who ringed the pitch to show the restraint that had become almost second nature to the prisoners. At any rate, what the Raiders were doing was a highly risky strategy.
The football officials present had three options. They could agree to negotiate with the Atlantic Raiders (unacceptable, as it would mean giving in a falling inwards; a collapse.
See also: Giving to coercion and was against all the principles of sport). They could remove the men from the pitch by force (even more unacceptable, as it violated the iron-clad principle among political prisoners not to engage in physical conflict with one another, and it would give the guards an excuse to intervene). The MEA leadership chose the third course: they did nothing.
The stand-off lasted for forty-five tortuous tor·tu·ous
Having many turns; winding or twisting.
tortuous adjective Referring to complexly twisted thing. Cf Tortious. minutes. The prison seemed to hold its collective breath, waiting to see what would happen next. Eventually, the Raiders gestured to one another and felt the field together. The crowd dispersed, the warders shepherded the prisoners back to their cell blocks, and that was the end of the football on Robben Island for the day.
The protest and its aftermath became the talk of the prison. Heated debate and discussion raged throughout the quarry and across the cell blocks. Was it just sour grapes on the part of the Atlantic Raiders or did the club have a legitimate complaint?
Benny Ntoele admitted years later that at the core of their protest, lay wounded pride. The Raiders had lost to a bunch of mahala (incompetents). They were the best players on the island and they had lost in the fust match of the season to a hopeless side on a bad decision. They had to do something, if only to restore their dignity.
On 8 December officials of the Makana FA called a secret meeting behind a cell block to discuss what to do next. They decided to punish the first referee for leaving the pitch but at the same time make it clear that nothing could possibly excuse the actions of the Raiders. The leadership of the MFA initiated disciplinary proceedings, which would lead to a formal indictment of the protesters. A tribunal would be established to pass judgement and, if the men were found guilty, to establish the penalties.
The Raiders were typically combative com·bat·ive
Eager or disposed to fight; belligerent. See Synonyms at argumentative.
com·bative·ly adv. in response and once again demanded a meeting with the MFA 's executive. The MFA received a memorandum signed by Tony Suze and witnessed by Sedick Isaacs sent on behalf of cell block C4 - not on behalf of the Atlantic Raiders.
Suddenly, the dynamic of the situation had changed. Tony, Freddie, Sedick, and the others had turned a dispute between football players and the disciplinary committee into one between a body representing authority (the Makana Football Association executive) and a group of prisoners who shared a common life in cell block C4.
The letter claimed to make a few simple points on behalf of the men of C4. They had the best interests of soccer at heart and were anxious to have a peaceful settlement of the dispute. The Raiders were not prepared to take responsibility or blame for what had happened but, by stating that they were looking forward to the re-fixtured Carlton v Blue Rocks game, it was clear that the men of cell block C4 were implicitly accepting that there would be no replay of the Raiders v Blue Rocks match. There would be no further demonstrations. The men were looking for a face-saving way to end the dispute: what they needed was some sign from the MFA that it recognized that the Raiders had a legitimate complaint. It was a diplomatic and non-committal letter. Sensing an opportunity for compromise, the MFA agreed to talk.
The meeting took place on the evening of 11 December in cell block C4. Four members of the MFA executive, including the chairman, Dikgang Moseneke, smuggled themselves into the building.
An observer was also brought in, Ike Mthimunye, someone who was respected throughout the community. The fact that they had invited an observer showed that both sides were keen to ensure that the larger community would be given an objective report of what happened. An interpreter was also on hand, to enable non-English speakers to follow the debates. Twenty-one prisoners had gathered to challenge the MFA quartet, which created a highly charged and intimidating atmosphere.
Tony Suze chaired the meeting and declared at the start that, in this cell, all inmates were free to talk. The temperature of the meeting rose. The controversy was no longer between just the Atlantic Raiders and the Makana FA. Frequent recesses had to be called to let tempers cool.
Pressure had begun to build on the Raiders and their friends throughout the prison. Other clubs and their players, officials, and fans were giving them a rough ride, disapproving of their actions. Tony Suze, Freddie Simon, and Benny Ntoele, among others, felt that the Makana FA had cast them in the role of villain and were hanging them out to dry. One thing that everyone did seem to agree on was that football on Robben Island was in a chaotic situation.
Benny Ntoele, who had became a spokesman for cell block C4, opened his statement to the meeting by saying that the actions of the association made him think that it did not care about them or want to listen to their complaints; that was what had forced them to take such extraordinary action. All the Atlantic Raiders wanted was justice.
Chairman Moseneke restated the MFA's position: the Raiders had not used the proper method to lodge their protest. This brought angry responses from the cell members, who accused the MFA of hiding behind bureaucratic bu·reau·crat
1. An official of a bureaucracy.
2. An official who is rigidly devoted to the details of administrative procedure.
Another speaker, not one of the Raiders, expressed the fear that football might be disrupted for everyone on the island - and after so many people had worked so hard to provide the opportunity for all to enjoy it. He couldn't understand how the association had let things get to this point. When he said that the hostility some of the prisoners felt towards cell block C4 was the fault of the MFA, it brought an angry reply from Moseneke.
He pointed out that it was the Atlantic Raiders who had tried to use hair-splitting definitions and legalistic le·gal·ism
1. Strict, literal adherence to the law or to a particular code, as of religion or morality.
2. A legal word, expression, or rule. ploys to draw attention to their protest. It was they who had handled things badly and they would have to take the consequences.
Moseneke wanted everyone to understand that the pressing issue now was not the result of a football match, it was the illegal action members of the Atlantic Raiders had carried out on the pitch on 5 December. He conceded that mistakes may have been made in the administration of the first match, but that didn't excuse the subsequent actions of the Raiders. He insisted that the association had done everything in its power to avoid the implementation of `duress' when it had called in the captain and vice-captain for interview.
Tony replied angrily that it seemed to him that the leadership of the association had almost deliberately baited the members of the Atlantic Raiders into showing what they had meant by 'duress'.
The meeting was closed with a statement by Ike Mthimunye, the observer. The demonstration had `disturbed the peace here on the island' and 'reactions were very high'. It seemed to him that the association and the Atlantic Raiders were facing one another 'with swords drawn'.
The discussions had ended in deadlock. For the next seven days, there was a distinctly tense atmosphere in the quarry and the cell blocks, with antagonism and bad feeling bubbling away on all sides. The Atlantic Raiders affair was fast spiralling out of all proportion.
A week later, the men met once again with the MFA in cell block C4. There was some effort to deal with the events that had taken place in the original match but, now, the dispute with the MFA had turned intensely personal and extended beyond issues concerning either the match against Blue Rocks or the demonstration on the pitch. While the dispute had simmered on, the MFA had tried to diffuse tensions within the prison by organizing a series of friendly games. Prisoners in C4 now claimed that the MFA had not chosen them to play in these friendlies because they had shown their support for the Atlantic Raiders.
The men also claimed that someone on the executive of the association had been going around the prison describing the inmates in cell block C4 as `ruffians' Since there had not yet been a hearing on the charges made against them, the men felt they were being singled out for castigation without due process. This called into question the possibility of a fair hearing.
In addition, the C4 cellmates accused the association of duplicity DUPLICITY, pleading. Duplicity of pleading consists in multiplicity of distinct matter to one and the same thing, whereunto several answers are required. Duplicity may occur in one and the same pleading. , of trying to use some of the provisions in the constitution to punish the demonstrators while ignoring other parts which might support the claims made by the Atlantic Raiders. Moseneke did his best to assure the assembled men that he regretted any aspersion as·per·sion
a. An unfavorable or damaging remark; slander: Don't cast aspersions on my honesty.
b. The act of defaming or slandering.
2. that may have been levelled against anyone in C4. Speaking for the association, he reminded the meeting that the executive was made up of fallible fal·li·ble
1. Capable of making an error: Humans are only fallible.
2. Tending or likely to be erroneous: fallible hypotheses. men.
One prisoner, Mr Chilsane, probably captured the mood of the men in cell block C4 by sarcastically responding to this by saying how `happy he was to get the statement that the association members are not demigods'. In a more conciliatory con·cil·i·ate
v. con·cil·i·at·ed, con·cil·i·at·ing, con·cil·i·ates
1. To overcome the distrust or animosity of; appease.
2. tone, he told the chairman that the association should recognize that the decision of the Raiders and their supporters not to stage any further demonstrations showed that their main interest was the continuation of football on Robben Island. If the association could meet them part way, the problem could be solved.
The discussion turned to how the judicial inquiry into the conduct of the Atlantic Raiders would proceed. Challenges were raised as to the impartiality of the men who would judge the case. Anxieties were expressed about the method in which evidence would be gathered, and whether the Raiders would have adequate time to formulate a robust defence. At one point Mr Chilsane asked for permission to leave the room because his emotions were running so high he was afraid he might resort to violence, should the MFA continue to play with words.
Matters had come to a head. The whole purpose of the meeting had been to find a way to bring about some agreement between the two parties and now the situation had been aggravated ag·gra·vate
tr.v. ag·gra·vat·ed, ag·gra·vat·ing, ag·gra·vates
1. To make worse or more troublesome.
2. To rouse to exasperation or anger; provoke. See Synonyms at annoy. further.
Moseneke recognized the need to let the process work itself out in an orderly fashion that would seem fair to everyone. He decided that the only way to handle the situation at this stage `might be to refer it to a higher body'. In both meetings speakers had made reference to an underlying issue that was making it difficult to reach any kind of compromise: the association wanted the Atlantic Raiders to admit that it did not respect the association; the Raiders were demanding respect for their grievances. Now that each side was fighting for abstract principles such as pride, respect, and reputation, it had become that much harder to settle anything between the parties.
Days after the meeting, the higher body (a specially chosen panel of the MFA) ruled that the Atlantic Raiders players were guilty of bringing the game into disrepute dis·re·pute
Damage to or loss of reputation.
a loss or lack of good reputation
Noun 1. .
The decision made it dear that the executive had nothing against protests per se (indeed it pointed to the civil disobedience civil disobedience, refusal to obey a law or follow a policy believed to be unjust. Practitioners of civil disobediance basing their actions on moral right and usually employ the nonviolent technique of passive resistance in order to bring wider attention to the of the Black Sash The Black Sash was a non-violent white women's resistance organization founded in 1955 in South Africa by Jean Sinclair. The Black Sash initially campaigned against the removal of Coloured or mixed race voters from the voters' roll in the Cape Province by the National Party anti-apartheid organization in South Africa South Africa, Afrikaans Suid-Afrika, officially Republic of South Africa, republic (2005 est. pop. 44,344,000), 471,442 sq mi (1,221,037 sq km), S Africa. as a model the Raiders could have used) but felt that the men could have conducted themselves in a less inflammatory fashion. For example, they could have marched along the field, or moved on to and then off the field. Instead, they lay on their bellies. The pavvy was disturbed and the whole day's football greatly disrupted. That was not sportsmanship.
Each of the men was given a one-month ban from playing football.
The MFA hoped that this ruling would bring the Atlantic Raiders affair to an end but, to its chagrin, the Raiders dug in their heels and refused to accept the verdicts or the sentences. They immediately launched appeals, with Sedick and George Moffatt (a prisoner who went on to have a distinguished career as an attorney) acting as their lawyers.
Big Mo Masemola sent an impassioned letter to the Appeals Tribunal of the MFA. It became the model for the way in which most of the Raiders would formulate their individual appeals. In it, he raised procedural issues, and then reminded the committee that the trial had been delayed so long, he had missed the opportunity to play in a number of select side matches. Surely that was punishment enough - and one that had been levied even before he had been tried for his offence.
He wanted the tribunal to remember the circumstances surrounding both the match and the demonstration. The match had been the opening one in a new competition, and it had seemed that no one knew exactly how matters should be resolved. Why should a sportsman such as himself have to suffer because the Makana FA had not planned for potential problems? Furthermore, if the referee had not acted in an unprofessional manner, none of the subsequent events would have arisen.
Masemola claimed to be as much a victim of circumstances as the perpetrator A term commonly used by law enforcement officers to designate a person who actually commits a crime. of an offence. He was appealing against both the imposition of the sentence and its severity. He would be satisfied if the MFA would set aside its sentence in the interests of justice and restoring harmony to the community.
He concluded with sentiments that would have found an echo throughout the community `this is a place where sports is a necessity, not a luxury'- and ended the letter with the phrase that was the hallmark of most of the sports-related correspondence between prisoners, words that were taken seriously: `Yours in sport'.
The Atlantic Raiders affair would roll relentlessly on for another three months. Sedick Isaacs and George Moffatt put together lengthy arguments and submitted detailed reports to the Appeals Tribunal. As a man with such a mischievous sense of humour Noun 1. sense of humour - the trait of appreciating (and being able to express) the humorous; "she didn't appreciate my humor"; "you can't survive in the army without a sense of humor"
sense of humor, humor, humour , Sedick revelled in the verbal jousting jousting
Medieval Western European mock battle between two horsemen who charged at each other with leveled lances in an attempt to unseat the other. It probably originated in France in the 11th century, superseding the mêlée, in which mock battles were held between and legal point-scoring.
In an interview nearly forty years later Tony Suze asserted that, for Sedick, it was an adventure, a kind of spontaneous dramatic play, one without a predetermined pre·de·ter·mine
v. pre·de·ter·mined, pre·de·ter·min·ing, pre·de·ter·mines
1. To determine, decide, or establish in advance: ending. The whole affair engaged, absorbed, and involved people in an intense and passionate way, and that was one of the reasons for prolonging it. In some ways, it was an intellectual game, but with a serious intent.
Dikgang Moseneke abandoned his role as Chairman of the MFA to assume that of Appeals Tribunal prosecutor. To this day, Dikgang's comrades like to remind the Deputy Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa The South African Constitutional Court was established in 1994 by South Africa's first democratic constitution: the Interim Constitution of 1993. In terms of the 1996 Constitution the Constitutional Court established in 1994 continues to hold office. that the Atlantic Raiders presented him with his first opportunity to write a detailed legal brief. He put forward a strong case and ensured that the court focused on the specifics of what had happened, giving a close reading of the relevant provisions in the constitution of the MFA.
Sedick was lead counsel for the defence. In addition to numerous references to the constitution of the Makana FA, his arguments included everything from references to FIFA regulations and the Magna Carta Magna Carta or Magna Charta [Lat., = great charter], the most famous document of British constitutional history, issued by King John at Runnymede under compulsion from the barons and the church in June, 1215. to Justice Blackstone and the constitution of the United
He concluded with sentiments that would have found an echo throughout the community - `this is a place where sports is a necessity, not a luxury'- and ended the letter with the phrase that was the hallmark of most of the sports-related correspondence between prisoners, words that were taken seriously: `Yours in sport'.
The Atlantic Raiders affair would roll relentlessly on for another three months. Sedick Isaacs and George Moffatt put together lengthy arguments and submitted detailed reports to the Appeals Tribunal. As a man with such a mischievous sense of humour, Sedick revelled in the verbal jousting and legal point-scoring.
In an interview nearly forty years later Tony Suze asserted that, for Sedick, it was an adventure, a kind of spontaneous dramatic play, one without a predetermined ending. The whole affair engaged, absorbed, and involved people in an intense and passionate way, and that was one of the reasons for prolonging it. In some ways, it was an intellectual game, but with a serious intent.
Dikgang Moseneke abandoned his role as Chairman of the MM to assume that of Appeals Tribunal prosecutor. To this day, Dikgang's comrades like to remind the Deputy Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa that the Atlantic Raiders presented him with his first opportunity to write a detailed legal brief He put forward a strong case and ensured that the court focused on the specifics of what had happened, giving a close reading of the relevant provisions in the constitution of the MFA.
Sedick was lead counsel for the defence. In addition to numerous references to the constitution of the Makana FA, his arguments induded everything from references to FIFA regulations and the Magna Carta to Justice Blackstone and the constitution of the United States Constitution of the United States, document embodying the fundamental principles upon which the American republic is conducted. Drawn up at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the Constitution was signed on Sept. . He knew he was on sticky ground and chose to adopt a classic defence lawyer's strategy: if the facts are not in your favour, then challenge the law or the jurisdiction of the court.
One of Sedick's ploys showed marvellous originality and audacity au·dac·i·ty
n. pl. au·dac·i·ties
1. Fearless daring; intrepidity.
2. Bold or insolent heedlessness of restraints, as of those imposed by prudence, propriety, or convention.
3. . He presented a list of reasons why the members of the panel should excuse themselves and stand down. He concluded that the whole Robben Island community was against the Atlantic Raiders and, since the members of the tribunal were all members of the Robben Island community, they were not fit to adjudicate adjudicate (jōō´dikāt´),
v the matter.
Later in to the appeals, the Atlantic Raiders started on a parallel line of attack against the association and its affiliated clubs. Again, it was just the kind of action that suited what Tony Suze described as Sedick's 'special sense of humour'.
The secretary of the Makana FA received a beautifully written note. It was a bold attempt by the Raiders to join the MFA as a bona-fide full-time club. In normal circumstances, the secretary would have been delighted to receive an application from a prospective new team, but this was an outrageous demand, calculated to further muddy the waters.
The MFA sat on the note, unwilling to consider the application until the tribunals had finished but, a week later, they received another message from Sedick and the Raiders. The letter was headed with the newly selected and somewhat provocative Jolly Roger Jolly Roger
black pirate flag with white skull and crossbones. [World Hist.: Brewer Dictionary, 926]
See : Piracy emblem of the Atlantic Raiders FC and was a formal application for affiliation to 'your esteemed organization'. Sedick submitted a list of players for membership. The first names were those of all the men indicted INDICTED, practice. When a man is accused by a bill of indictment preferred by a grand jury, he is said to be indicted. by the Makana FA for their centre-circle demonstration.
The letter was a model of precision and met every standard set down by the association for new clubs seeking membership to the MFA. The men had applied for cards to release them from their old clubs. The letter listed the officers of the club, its colours, and emblem. The motto was 'still to be chosen'.
In the letter the Raiders also suggested that the new club enter into friendly matches with MFA clubs and cheekily asked for a copy of the association's constitution - this request from men who had spent weeks arguing with the association about arcane provisions contained within that very document. They already knew it inside out.
The final paragraph of Sedick's letter reeked of irony. He hoped that the application would be most favourably considered because the Raiders were anxiously looking forward to assisting the MFA in the task of promoting football and contributing to the recreation of the community.
The formality of the letter was appropriate and the sentiments everything expected of a new applicant but, given the circumstances at the time, it must have enraged en·rage
tr.v. en·raged, en·rag·ing, en·rag·es
To put into a rage; infuriate.
[Middle English *enragen, from Old French enrager : en-, causative pref. the MFA. How, though, could it respond, other than to accept the application? After all, the Atlantic Raiders were following the constitution to the letter.
What was going on in the creation of this new club? A joke, a way to raise their spirits? Or was it what one member of the executive of the association felt was an effort to form their own league? None of these. It was a combination of bluff and blackmail, an attempt to get the respect they thought they were owed and to have the punishments of the team members reduced. The men wanted to put the episode behind them but to come out of it with their pride intact.
Underlying this approach was the calculation that the Atlantic Raiders were in a position to put pressure on the association because of the quality of their players. Their clubs would not want to lose them. It was also assumed that the clubs would not want to see the creation of a virtual picked side as a single club. It would dominate the league even more than Manong had done, and the whole reason behind the new cup tournament had been to bring some relief from a league where one club was so superior.
The MFA was wrong-footed and stalled on making any kind of decision. This played into the hands of the Atlantic Raiders. If they had overdone o·ver·done
Past participle of overdo.
Adj. 1. overdone - represented as greater than is true or reasonable; "an exaggerated opinion of oneself"
exaggerated, overstated it by staging the demonstration, it now seemed that the MFA's delays over granting permission to join the association were leading many of the prisoners to believe that the Raiders were indeed being victimized. Cranking up the pressure on the MFA even further, the Atlantic Raiders Football Club even announced that its maiden friendly match would take place on 31 January 1971.
It would never be played. The MFA had a surprise in store for the Raiders. It told the ever-meticulous Sedick that it had discovered a clause in the constitution that decreed that an application for admission could not be accepted while competition games were in progress. The only way to get around it would be for the Atlantic Raiders to rally enough clubs to vote to waive that clause - and any hope of that ended when the delegate for the Rangers FC had condemned the unsportsmanlike conditions under which the Raiders had been formed. He was not alone in his feelings.
The Atlantic Raiders' efforts had failed. The pressure they had tried to put on the existing clubs didn't work, as everyone knew that none of the Raiders players would want to wait until the following season to play another competitive match. Football mattered too much to them. In practical terms, waiting for the Raiders to become a club would cost them more time off the pitch than would accepting their punishment.
While the legal arguments played out, there were other, more important pressures brought to bear on the Raiders. Fellow prisoners appealed to them to end the crisis. The most telling of these was the efforts of the non-playing Chairman of Manong (the club that meant so much to Tony Suze) to convince Tony to do something to 'lead the men back to football'. The elderly chairman was noted for his wisdom and ability to act as a conciliator con·cil·i·ate
v. con·cil·i·at·ed, con·cil·i·at·ing, con·cil·i·ates
1. To overcome the distrust or animosity of; appease.
2. and those talents were evident in his conversations with the much younger Tony.
On 14 February 1971 the Raiders reluctantly and finally gave in. Sedick wrote a letter to the MFA stating that the Atlantic Raiders had `peacefully passed away'.
He requested that a waiver be granted to allow its members to join their former clubs as soon as possible and concluded that the decision of the ARFC ARFC Athens Regional Foundation Classic (Athens, Georgia golf tournament) to disband dis·band
v. dis·band·ed, dis·band·ing, dis·bands
To dissolve the organization of (a corporation, for example).
1. had been taken in the light of complaints that it had been interfering with the standard of football. The Raiders were facing the reality of defeat and trying to salvage their dignity.
As the months had passed, it was clear that everyone was tired of the problems that had started with the giant-killing victory of the Blue Rocks. A compromise had to be reached; something had to be done to remove the wedge that had been driven between many of the men and to repair the damage that had been caused to the enjoyment of football on the island.
The prisoners were being denied the pleasure of playing and watching football, and even the warders were missing the weekly matches. The guards were going up to the players they knew and asking impatiently, What's going on What's Going On is a record by American soul singer Marvin Gaye. Released on May 21, 1971 (see 1971 in music), What's Going On reflected the beginning of a new trend in soul music. with you people? When are we going to see some football again?'
Implicit within the guards' confusion about why the players had stopped playing competitive matches was the fact that the prison regime knew little or nothing about the heated debates and meetings that were going on behind closed doors. Ironically, and as vexed and problematic as the Atlantic Raiders affair had been, this did illustrate quite how successful the prisoners had been in taking full control over an important area of their lives within the prison.
Finally, the various parties came to a pragmatic, face-saving agreement. The Appeals Tribunal of the Makana FA would change the sentence. The one-month ban from football would be suspended for six months, on condition that the men did not commit an offence involving violence and/or disobedience to association orders. The MFA also insisted that the Raiders players submit letters of apology to the association, as laid out in the trial court judgement.
One by one, the players acquiesced and penned their letters of apology. After five testy tes·ty
adj. tes·ti·er, tes·ti·est
Irritated, impatient, or exasperated; peevish: a testy cab driver; a testy refusal to help. , bad-tempered months of to-ing and fro-ing between the two sides, the Atlantic Raiders affair was over. Its repercussions repercussions npl → répercussions fpl
repercussions npl → Auswirkungen pl , however, would continue to resound for a long time to come. The consequences were felt not only in what was to happen in the Robben Island sporting community in the immediate years to follow, but also decades later, in the memories of those who had been involved.
Marcus Solomon, who put in a lot of time on the disciplinary committee, was appalled by the actions taken by the Atlantic Raiders. He still finds the lack of respect shown to the association, its establishment the result of so much effort by the men in the prison as a whole, upsetting. In a conversation that took place in 2000, one of Tony Suze's closest friends from childhood and a fellow prisoner told him that, though he loved him like a brother, he still hadn't forgiven him for all the trouble caused by the Atlantic Raiders affair.
The 1970 annual Makana FA report summed up the impact of the affair on football on Robben Island:
The very best of exhibition matches brought us the worst of sorrows ever told. Here our football society was shaken to its very soul. Literally all our bodies were shaken, involved, and immersed in this historic event. The individual referee in charge of the match was under fire. The Referees Union was declared the most inefficient body by The Raiders. The Protest and Misconduct Committee was insulted and cartooned in a manner unparalleled in our football history here. The Executive turned out to be the Prosecutors and the persecutors in the eyes of The Raiders ... the `pavvy' was heaving with thick points of anger. And last yet not least, individual relationships with Raiders demonstrators were inconceivably strained. The volume of paper, time, and meetings on this issue alone is unbelievable to hear ... this matter has been settled and I leave it to you to learn from this catastrophe, which should never recur.
The Atlantic Raiders affair was one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of football on the island. The actions taken by the Raiders and the reaction to them demonstrated the men's passion for football, and their all too human resistance to the harshness of the regime to which they had been subjected on the island. Years in prison had not turned them into passive, rule-bound robots or paragons of virtue. Men such as Sedick Isaacs and Dikgang Moseneke had retained and even honed their intellectual talent; others demonstrated a singleminded resolve to do what they believed was right.
Thanks to the series of hearings, the numerous tense meetings, and the dozens of memoranda and letters that were exchanged, hundreds of valuable sheets of foolscap fools·cap
1. Chiefly British A sheet of writing or printing paper measuring approximately 13 by 16 inches.
2. A fool's cap. paper were expended on the Atlantic Raiders affair. The transcript of the appeal proceedings alone took 129 pages, as it had to be produced in triplicate in order that all involved parties had access to it.
The most intriguing question is why the whole thing took the course it did. The men dearly had disrupted a match to the point that a week's programme of football had to be cancelled. What could be a more cut and dried cut and dried cut adj (also: cut-and-dry) (answer) → eindeutig: (solution) → einfach case of violating the principles of sportsmanship and the rules of the Makana Football Association? On the other hand, why did it take so long to mete out mete out
[meting, meted] to impose or deal out something, usually something unpleasant: the sentence meted out to him has proved controversial [Old English metan the punishment that the Atlantic Raiders so clearly deserved?
Perhaps the answer is not so hard to find. Every one of the men on the island had been convicted by a judicial system whose major purpose was to protect a regime dedicated to the persecution of the majority of its citizens. It would have been impossible to convince any of the men on Robben Island that this system represented anything that even approached fairness and due process.
The behaviour of the Atlantic Raiders was a real annoyance and, for a while maybe, even a threat to the good-hearted continuation of football on the island, but there was an unspoken agreement among the prisoners that they would grant one another the rights the system outside the prison had denied them. The principles of justice had to be observed.
The behaviour of the Atlantic Raiders was a major annoyance, In retrospect, the events surrounding the Raiders has some qualities of farce. At the time, some of the men involved did see the humorous aspects of it, but they were a very small minority of the community. How it played out also showed the striking changes that had taken place amongst the prisoners. Two leaders of the Raiders were Tony Suze, a political prisoner dedicated to the PAC and Freddie Simon, a common-law criminal who had become an ANC ANC
African National Congress
ANC African National Congress: South African political movement instrumental in bringing an end to apartheid
ANC n abbr (= member after his imprisonment Imprisonment
See also Isolation.
former federal maximum security penitentiary, near San Francisco; “escapeproof.” [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 218]
German prison ship in World War II. [Br. Hist. . Any co-operation between men like them would have been unimaginable even a few years earlier. Football had brought them together and their wounded pride had made them allies in an ongoing drama.
For a while, the Raiders' actions and the responses to them represented a genuine threat to the good-hearted continuation of football amongst the prisoners. The desire to play football collided with the unstated assumption Unstated assumption is a type of propaganda message which foregoes explicitly communicating the propaganda's purpose and instead states ideas derived from it. This technique is used when a propaganda's main idea lacks credibility, and thus when mentioned directly will result in the amongst the prisoners that they would grant one another the rights of appeal that the system outside the prison had denied to them. The principles of justice had to be observed even if that meant frayed tempers and postponing the pleasure of playing and watching football. The time and effort involved in resolving the case against the Atlantic Raiders is not as remarkable as the fact that the prisoners had developed a set of bureaucratic structure that enabled them to get past the problems caused by the Raiders and to keep the Makana Football Association intact.
The Atlantic Raiders Affair *
by Chuck Korr and Marvin Close **
* Chapter 6 of More Than Just a Game: Football v. Apartheid. HarperCollins Publishers, London, United Kingdom, pp. 117-143 (authors' permission).
** Chuck Korr is Research Professor at the International Centre for Sport History and Culture, De Montfort University De Montfort University (DMU) is a British university situated in Leicester, England. History
De Montfort University, which is named after Simon de Montfort who was Earl of Leicester in the 13th century, is one of two universities situated in the , United Kingdom and Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Missouri- St. Louis, United States of America UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The name of this country. The United States, now thirty-one in number, are Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, . Mrvin Close is a dramatist and scriptwriter script·writ·er
One who writes copy to be used by an announcer, performer, or director in a film or broadcast.