South Africa and Scotland renew old ties

August 21, 2007

When South Africa play Scotland in a friendly international on Wednesday at Pittodrie it will revive footballing ties that stretch back almost 150 years.

The only previous full international between the countries came five years ago, when Bafana Bafana were 2-0 winners over a Berti Vogts team in Hong Kong.

But South Africa have played in Scotland before, the Springbok team of 1924 losing 3-2 to Queens Park at Glasgow and their 1953 counterparts losing to a Scottish FA Northern XI and Dundee on their long tour of Britain.

Scots played a role in crossing the racial divide in the days of initial sporting integration.

Former Scottish international Alex Forbes was one of the first high profile white managers to cross over and take charge of a major black team, Orlando Pirates in 1975.

Joe Frickleton, who emigrated from the obscurity of East Stirlingshire, became a legend in South Africa as a biting fullback who won three championships with Highlands Park in the 60s and then coached the Kaizer Chiefs team of 1984 to a domestic clean sweep.

A decade later he was at the helm as Pirates headed to the countrys first success in African club competition, winning the 1995 Champions Cup.

In 1987 the only championship success of Jomo Cosmos was achieved under the tutelage of Roy Matthews, a former Charlton Athletic midfielder who is still at the club and in charge of their development side. What the kids from the townships fathom of his broad Scots accent is the subject of some mirth these days.

In the other direction, South Africans have enjoyed a profile in Scotland too. The first South African to play in the World Cup finals wore the colours of Scotland. John Hewie, a defender born and raised in South Africa, was capped 19 times between 1956 and 1960.

More contemporary was Richard Gough, who was at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico for Scotland. Although born in Sweden, he was raised in Johannesburg where his father Charles was a star at Highlands Park.

Gough junior, during his days at Rangers and their nine-titles-in-a row side, had a penchant for picking up a suspension just after Christmas, usually an accumulation of cautions or a rash red card, which ensured a week or twos worth of sunshine at his house in Cape Towns exclusive Camps Bay while his colleagues slogged through January.

After World War II, there was steady exodus of top South African talent to clubs in Scotland, best known among them Don Kitchenbrand, the Rangers Rhino, and John Hubbard, the penalty king at Ibrox in the mid-50s. Hubbard, who hailed from Pretorias Berea Park, scored 106 goals in 1983 matches and did not miss a penalty for seven years.

Mark Gleeson, Johannesburg

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