Bob Marley Soccer Challenge: Remembering Bob Marley with Football and Music


The 3rd Annual Bob Marley Soccer Challenge will be held on 06 February 2016 at Dales Park Sports Field, Mayor’s Walk in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal. This coming year’s event is going to be even bigger and the stakes are much higher as the title holders, Burning Spear FC are looking to take the cup for the third time running. It is a fitting celebration of Bob Marley’s birthday.

There is only just a few musicians to whom the term “legend “truly applies, whose music will outlive everyone, from generation to generation while the message remains relevant through all times. Bob Marley, born Robert Nesta Marley on 06 February 1943 in Jamaica, passed away 35 years ago yet he is still remembered internationally through music. He was hailed as a Reggae king all over the world due to his revolutionary conscious lyrics. Music was his weapon to fight oppression and racial segregation, he became famous through music but that was not the only weapon he had up his sleeves.

“Football is a whole skill to itself. A whole world. A whole universe to itself. Me love it because you have to be skillful to play it! Freedom! Football is freedom” (Bob Marley 1979).

Well known for his classic songs, One love, Buffalo soldier and No woman No cry, a lot of people only know Bob Marley as a reggae musician; little do they know that he was a mystic man on the soccer pitch too!! Football was his second passion after music. The Reggae legend Bob Marley, so loved the game of football, it was actually a pre-requirement that he had access to a football field while on tour. He once decided not to do any interviews on a tour through Europe and his response to journalists was “If you want to get to know me, you will have to play football against me and the Wailers”. Whether at home, in the recording studio or on the road, a soccer ball was always by his side. He often took part in formally organized games with other musicians, journalist, at times with professional soccer players. It was during a football game when Marley had one of his toe nails ripped of that he discovered he had a type of cancer that would see him pass away at the age of 36.

Instead of staying off his feet as per the doctor’s instruction, he continued with his European tour. Everywhere Bob Marley is remembered with just musical celebrations, here in the City of Choice we dare to differ, for the past two years we have been commemorating Bob Marley, the football player and musician through the Bob Marley Soccer Challenge. Why? Because both Reggae music and soccer were catalysts in the South African struggle for Freedom.

When football was first introduced to South Africa in the late nineteenth century, organised football was affected by the apartheid system of racial segregation. There was the all-white Football Association of South Africa (FASA), The South African Indian Football Association (SAIFA), the South African Bantu Football Association (SABFA) and the South African Coloured Football Association founded in 1892, 1903, 1933 and 1936 respectively.

Bob marley soccer challenge

The South African constitution prohibited racially mixed teams from competitive sport. It was organised football bodies such as FIFA and the Confederation of African football (CAF) that compelled the former South African government to make changes in their system in order to be able to participate in international football tournaments. Although South Africa was part of the 4 founding nations of the CAF in 1956, in 1958 South Africa was formally expelled from the CAF. South Africa was suspended in 1961 from FIFA but the suspension was later lifted in 1963. The suspension was re-imposed again in 1964 but in 1976, after the Soweto Uprising, South Africa was formally expelled from FIFA. It was in 1991 when a new multi-racial South African Football association was formed and admitted to FIFA and was able to play again for the first time in two decades against Cameroon.

When football as a team sport was introduced to natives in South Africa, whites feared free time for Africans, thinking that it would certainly lead to crime, alcoholism and political activity. To a white man, football was a tool for control that would encourage development of a law-abiding, apolitical African population. To a black man football became a vehicle for meaningful political activity. Political meetings were banned but several members of a political organisation would use the opportunity to mingle and discuss political issues during the game. Even political prisoners in Robben Island were given authority to form a soccer league of their own. Most political prisoners, including President Jacob Zuma and Mr Kgalema Motlanthe participated except for Dr Nelson Mandela who was only able to watch the games from his isolation block until the authorities built a wall to obstruct his view. Football was used as a weapon against the white institution, By the 1980s, activists commonly organized themselves into soccer squads to confound the regime. They could travel easily across international borders, and matches represented a valuable source of money for underground anti-apartheid organizations.

Soccer, like reggae music, is one of the world’s best means of communication. It is impartial, apolitical and universal. It unites people around the world every day, young or old, players or fans, rich or poor, the game makes everyone equal, stirs the imagination and makes people happy. Soccer is the world’s most popular sport similar to reggae music as reggae, unlike other music genres is non-regional but is a music which is loved and understood internationally. Reggae music is known worldwide as a revolutionary music that brings together people of all kind. Reggae music promotes love, respect, unity and peace. Reggae and soccer have similarities as they both have potential to bring together people of all races, creed, class or nationality.

Reggae played a crucial role during the liberation struggle of South Africa in the fight against the apartheid regime. During that time a number of reggae albums and songs with strong anti-apartheid messages were released by international and local artists bringing worldwide exposure to the oppressive regime ruling South Africa, songs such as Peter Tosh- Anti Apartheid, Empress Akelia- Apartheid is wrong, Lucky Dube- Together as one, Franky Jones- Free South Africa, UB40- sing our own song, Bob Marley -War, Tappa Zukie – Tribute to Steve Biko and many more. Eddie Grant’s now popular anti-apartheid song, Gimme Hope Joana pissed off the South African Government so bad they banned it!! Therefore it is necessary to recognize Reggae music as one of the main reasons why apartheid has thankfully become a horrible thing from the past.

Even in this democratic era, lovers of Reggae music continue to be undeserved with reggae in the media, yet it has great potential to unite people in One Love.

Bob Marley Soccer Challenge Winners

The Bob Marley Soccer Challenge, aims to spread the message of One love, love for one another regardless of race, creed or colour, love for all mankind and in loving one another, we can work together towards eradicating social ills such as crime, xenophobia, drugs and poverty. In encouraging the youth to play soccer and listen to the conscious reggae music, we are planting a seed which will grow and help in shaping them towards becoming responsible and conscious adults.

This coming February, all roads lead to Pietermaritzburg for this spectacular event. The 3rd Annual Bob Marley Soccer Challenge will be held on 06 February 2016 at Dales Park Sports Field, Mayor’s Walk from 09h00 till late. This year’s event is going to be even bigger and the stakes are much higher. The teams that lost during the tournament are hoping to come back and walk away with the Bob Marley cup yet the defending champions, Burning Spear F.C. are hoping to walk away with the Cup for the 3rd time. Among the artists that will be entertaining are Word, Sound and Power, Spear-Nazarites, Undivided Roots ZA, King James and many more MCs, poets and DJs.

Team registration is free, admission is by a small donation of R20, students, children under 15 years andThere’ll be loads of fun activities for the whole family. So make sure to come down to the City of Choice to witness for yourself the Bob Marley Soccer Challenge.

Click here for event details.

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