The South African Football Association was incorporated on 23 March 1991 following a long unity process that was to rid the sport in South Africa of all its past racial division.
Four disparate units came together to form the organisation in Johannesburg to set South African football on the road to a return to international competition after a lifetime of apartheid in soccer.
These four entities were the Football Association of South Africa (FASA), the South African Soccer Association (SASA), the South African Soccer Federation (SASF) and the South African National Football Association (SANFA), who later withdrew from the process only to return again two years later.
SAFA’s inaugural conference in Johannesburg was chaired by Interim Chairman, Mr Mluleki George of the National Sports Congress (NSC). The proposal for SAFA to apply for CAF membership was taken at this congress. However, SANFA did not agree with this initiative. A Draft Constitution was accepted and referred to all Regions and provinces for further consideration and any proposed amendments were to be thrashed out on 5 May 1991. A 15-member committee was elected to office until February 1992, when elections for a permanent National Executive Committee would be held.
The process culminated in a holistic consensus of all negotiating parties on 8 December 1991.
It was only natural that the game finally be united as the sport of football had long led the way into breaking the tight grip of racial oppression, written into South Africa’s laws by its successive apartheid governments.
A delegation from SAFA received a standing ovation at the Congress of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in Dakar, Senegal in 1992, where South Africa was accorded observer status following its recognition by CAF in the same year. South Africa’s membership of the world governing body, FIFA, was confirmed at the FIFA Congress held in Zurich in June, 1992.
Within a month the country hosted its first international match as FIFA World Cup quarterfinalists, Cameroon, came to play in three matches to celebrate the unity process. In September 1992, South Africa played its first junior international match against Botswana at under-16 level in Lenasia, Johannesburg and to date, the country has entered a team in each of FIFA and CAF ‘s competitions, from under-17 to senior national team level for men and women.
In comparison with other football nations, SAFA has achieved remarkable success with qualification for the FIFA World Cup finals in France in 1998, Korea-Japan in 2002 and in South Africa in 2010. It also became the African champions at the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations finals, which the country hosted, and were the runners-up in Burkina Faso two years later.
After a lengthy period in the doldrums of African football, the Men’s Senior National Team experienced a resurgence in 2010 – 2011, experiencing a memorable 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign and moving from 89th position on the FIFA World Rankings to 38th position in May 2011 – an improvement of 51 positions in 13 months!
At under-20 level, South Africa were runners-up at the 1997 African championships in Morocco and qualified to play in the Under-20 FIFA World in Malaysia in the same year. In 2010, the Womens Under-17 National Team played in the Under-17 FIFA World Cup after a gruelling qualifying campaign.
The Womens Senior National Team (Banyana Banyana) has consistently remained among the top three national teams in Africa and qualified, in August 2011, to play in the 2012 London Olympic Games. In the same year, the team placed fourth in the 2011 All-Africa Games in Mozambique, in what was their most successful year to date.
The country’s Under-23 National Team faced a gruelling campaign in 2011 to qualify for both the All-Africa Games and the 2012 London Olympic Games, going on to place second in the 2011 All-Africa Games in Mozambique with a group of players put together at short notice due to club commitments of players who played in the qualification rounds of the competition.
At club level, Orlando Pirates won the prestigious African Champions Cup in 1995, the first club from the southern African region to take the title in more than 30 years of competition. Orlando Pirates played in the event for the first time and won the title away from home in Cote d’Ivoire to further amplify the magnificence of the victory.
Behind the scenes, SAFA has worked long and hard to provide the structures to take football to all levels of the South African community. There are now national age-group competitions from under-17 levels, more than 7,000 qualified coaches working around the country and nine provincial structures, who are further divided into 52 Regions. Additional Regions are planned in line with the changes made to municipal demarcations by the Municipal Demarcation Board.
A democratically-elected National Executive Committee provides the strategic direction for the Association. The Chief Executive Officer oversees the running of a large staff operation. Currently, Dr. Danny Jordaan is the sixth president of SAFA since its formation, elected in 2013. Mr Kirsten Nematandani was SAFA president from 2009 to 2013. Dr Molefi Oliphant was the fourth President, serving from 1997 to 2009, and contiues to serve SAFA as Honorary Life President. Solomon ‘Stix’ Morewa served as Executive President from 1994 until his resignation in January 1997. Professor Lesole Gadinabokao was the second president, serving from 1992 to 1994. Mluleki George served as the interim Chairman for the first year (1991-1992) of the existence of the Association.