A celebration of a local Footballer’s SA Career…
I was SUPER excited when I got a call from Zoe Muir, asking if I could help with a unique birthday gift, she wanted to give her husband. She described to me briefly on the phone, how her husband Bradley Muir’s mother had lovingly collected newspaper clippings of her son’s Football Career. She wanted to know if we could scan all the images and create professional-looking photobooks.
Now anyone that knows me, will know how passionate I am about Football!
A bit of background
My interest in football was first piqued back in 1995 when I lived in Seoul, South Korea. Around that time, the country submitted a bid to host the 2002 FIFA World Cup. In an unprecedented move, South Korea and Japan were appointed to co-host the tournament (a solution neither country was particularly happy about, given their strenuous history). I honestly thought the FIFA tournament was on in Korea at that time – I had never seen how overboard countries can go, while pitching to host (I witnessed that a few years later, when SA pitched for the 2020 tournament). The city was covered with 2002 signs, posters, displays, etc. In 2002 South Korea controversially managed to reach the semi-finals, becoming the first and only team from outside Europe and the Americas to reach the last four of the World Cup.
I am a little surprised, given that I lived in the UK for four years, prior to moving to Korea, that I didn’t go to one Premier League football game (what a regret!). The closest I came to experiencing football back then, was the fan-jammed tubes in Chelsea where I lived. The pubs sometimes had to board up their windows and doors, so as not to be vandalised by British football hooligans if they lost. My son Jedin, just happens to be a Chelsea supporter. But I digress….
In all honesty, I can say that I am a super keen football fan – I am more than happy to watch my husband and sons from the stands, while photographing the game. KJ played street soccer as a kid he roamed the streets freely after school, looking for neighbourhood games. He played while at university, in the army, and then played for SAMSUNG, while employed as an engineer. He loved the fact that he was paid to play soccer! After arriving in SA, he became a “One in a Million Dad Coach” at Westville Old Boys Soccer Club for almost 8 years. I can’t even count the number of Sunday games I have watched and photographed over the years. The children, despite struggling to understand KJ’s English with phrases like “tie your shoeraces” and the parents not always understanding the “Asian Tiger Dad” approach – making the kids do 100 push-ups for not listening – all loved KwangJeon (or KJ as he is known in SA).
KJ went on to play Over 35 Football at the club – it took him two years to realise, that when his teammates called him “my China” they were not talking about his nationality. He bought a bright red Nike jacket with the word KOREA in large print, just in case they got confused.
Football in SA
Then along came the 2010 FIFA World Cup in SA. KJ was lucky enough to host various Korean journalists and tourists who came to Durban to watch matches. It was quite difficult to convince them, that the bulletproof vests recommended by travel companies, were not actually a necessity. South Korea sent their own policemen to man exits at the stadiums when the Korean National Team played – there were drills practiced showing Korean citizens what to do if they had to evacuate the stadium after games. All I can say is that we had the absolute best time! Shabalala became a household name overnight, as he scored the first goal of the tournament against Mexico in front of 84000 people.
We watched the Korea – Nigeria game at Moses Mabhida and were rewarded seeing 4 goals scored. We watched the other games with Korean community members and SA friends, braaiing, dressing up, screaming, laughing, singing, and celebrating. The children went to Football parties and dressed up at school, placed bets on who the winning team would be. People drove down the streets with SA flags on their car mirrors – and sport does, what only it can do, ultimately unify people.
Post 2010, club soccer children suddenly became actors, mimicking the theatrical behavior displayed by footballers, not so much of their skills though! I was just happy that the sport enjoyed boosted local support. I began to take my family to loads of local games we watched Kaiser Chiefs, Pirates, Amazulu, Maritzburg United, Sundowns, etc. I loved hearing the singing of the crowds, the dressing up of the cheerleaders and fans, and of course the Vuvuzelas we were introduced to, at the World Cup. To be honest I prefer to listen to them at local games, where the crowd uses them in unison, to a song that they all somehow just know. Interestingly the tickets for a local game are sooooo cheap generally around R40 and just R10 for women, which I thought was discriminatory, but didn’t fight at the turnstiles.
The last installment of my love of football was my children. Both Youngwoo and Jedin played soccer from a very young age. Soccer Skills, Club, School, Academy, KZN Schools and now First Team Football at Westville Boys’ High School. I usually post a gallery of photos and share them with the players – this is highly appreciated by all my son’s friends and their parents (my son – not so much). By the way, I recommend an excellent website if you would like to do the same thing (www.pixieset.com).
The 4 Photobooks
So this brings me to the excitement I felt, as I paged my way through all the newspaper clippings Bradley’s Mom collected from 1992 – 1997. Only a dedicated and devoted Mom would scour the papers and collect the weekly PSL team results, articles about the team and competitors.
Bradley Muir initially played for Hellenic, then Manning Rangers (the club was known by quite a few names), he was then called up to the National Squad Bafana Bafana, and just before his career ended, he did a short stint at Amazulu. I loved reading about the games, the politics, descriptions of the players’ skill and determination, the coaches, strategy, achievements, and various other insights.
They have transported dull scrapbooks into beautiful books of memories. Their service is brilliant and created a beautiful gift to pass on to generations. I can’t wait to start another project with Natasha!!Zoe Muir, November 2020
Future Coffee Date
One coach that featured throughout this collection, was the humble Mr. Clive Barker, the only coach to win the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) title with Bafana Bafana, in 1996. My son Jedin has been fortunate enough to be coached by Mr. Barker at his High School and at the Clive Barker Academy. I was thrilled when my Dad gave my son his autobiography to read – generations of wisdom. I also can’t wait to chat to him about this amazing 50th birthday gift – if possible, a coffee date to page through the four photobooks, would be fantastic.
See also https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/football-south-africa-timeline-1862-2012 for a fascinating account of South African Football History.