Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Basutoland Footballer




One of the fondly remembered playground games of my primary school days was during breaktime when large groups of kids gathered by the Victorian brick wall with fistfulls of colourful cards bound together in elastic bands. These pocket money items came with bubble gum, ice cream lollies, and with slim white sugary sticks (Sweet Cigarettes). Or were found inside 'adult' items like packets of tea, which were then handed on to us....

Usually half a dozen cards were propped up against the wall. We'd then take enough steps back so we'd be about six feet or so away from the cards. Then each of us would take a turn to flick a card at them, trying to knock them over. After 5 minutes of so, most of the standing cards were on the deck, and there would be cards scattered all over the place. I remember several variants of the rules, but the one I recall most was where the winner knocked over the last standing card, and the prize was to pick up and keep all the cards. He'd then prop up another set of six from his winning pile, and we'd begin all over again. I forget what happened though when we'd be mid-match, and the school bell rang to resume classes...

And to the present day. I recently bought (online) a very unusual example from my card-loving era of the late 60s and early 70s. The NATIONAL TEAM COLOURS series was produced by Anglo Confectionary of Halifax sometime around 1969 / 1970. This was a famous card-producing company of the time - but I don't remember ever seeing a Team Colour card in all those 'flicksie' card matches of my youth!

Card Number 45 (from a Series of 56) was the national team colour of Basutoland - a small South African country that had already been reborn as the Kingdom of Lesotho following its Independence from the United Kingdom in October 1966. A rather odd curiosity given that this set was produced at least three years afterwards!

Basutoland Team Colours, 1965 Registration. Black with White Collar and Cuffs...

I fondly remember the name Basutoland  from the days when junior philatelists like me collected stamps of the 'British Empire' in the pages of  my 'Victory Stamp Album of the World'...


King George VI, 1938 issue

The landlocked mountainous nation of Basutoland was a British Crown Colony established in 1884. It used the stamps of South Africa until 1st December 1933 when it began to produce a separate definitive issue showing a crocodile and the Drakensburg mountain range. In 1945 - to mark Peace after World War 2 - an attractive set of three South African stamps were overprinted Basutoland, but the country continued to produce stamps with its own name until the Independence issue of Lesotho (which translates roughly into the land of the people who speak Sotho) in October 1966.

At this time, the majority of South African stamps were issued in bilingual pairs (English and Afrikaans)


Back to Anglo's Basutoland football card issue, even though it seemed rather an eccentric choice, there is a precedent to the significance of the inclusion - though I expect it was unknown to the publishers...

The very first African Association Football team to have visited Britain, in September 1899, were dubbed 'the Kaffirs' - a team made up of players from Basutoland. The trip was a fund-raisng trip for the Orange Free State Football Association (they actually wore orange shirts with dark blue collars and shorts).

A total of 36 games were played against the best teams of England and Scotland - beginning with a defeat to Newcastle United at St James' Park in front of a crowd of 6,000! Even though the final statistics for the tour were: Played 36, Won 0, Drawn 1, with 235 goals conceded, a remarkable moment of footballing history was made by pioneering young footballers from...Basutoland.




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