Reflections on the 1862 football match in Port Elizabeth
The oldest recorded football match in South Africa was played in Port Elizabeth on 24 May 1862. This article explores the available evidence for this match before moving on to a more general discussion of three broader contexts in which the match was played. These contexts are contemporary football developments in colonial Britain, the emergence of ‘carrying codes’ in the Cape Colony and the mid-19th century development of sport in Port Elizabeth. Very little is known about the 1862 match in Port Elizabeth. The discussion of the match therefore serves as a pretext for a situated exploration of the 19th century codification of ‘football’ – which produced, inter alia, the dominant South African codes of ‘rugby’ and
‘soccer.’ Here, ‘codification’ involves more than the establishment of rules and clubs; it includes the association of sporting practices with other social ‘codes’ – notably those associated with class, gender and race. In this article particular attention is given to the association of ‘football’ with a particular public school mediated model of masculinity. The author argues that the reason the Port Elizabeth game has gone largely unnoticed in most sporting histories is because it cannot easily be classified as ‘a code’ and thereby slotted into prevailing South African code historiographies.
Key words: Sociology of sport; History of sport; Sport and leisure studies;
Football; Rugby; Soccer; Masculinity; Port Elizabeth