Matchworn Andrew Rabutla 04.06.97 ZAF 🇿🇦 : NED 🇳🇱 0-2 (Mandela Challenge)
Despite being founded in 1903, South Africa’s footballing history only really began in 1992, when a forty-year-long ban, due to the apartheid system in the country, was lifted.
Just shortly after this, the team could already show off their first major title, after winning the Africa Cup in 1996.
Just two years later came their next big success: their first participation in the FIFA World Cup.
This was also the first time, 11-year-old me would lay my eyes on South Africa’s curious jersey.
Stripes, shapes, lines, gold/ochre, various badges – Kappa’s design for the “Bafana bafana”, as the team is called, is a hot mess – but a shirt that has always fascinated me, nonetheless.
There’s no doubt that this is South Africa’s most iconic shirt to date, as it was used from the team’s (second) beginnings in 1992 until the 1998 World Cup, albeit in slightly different variations.
There are literally dozens of different versions of this jersey, only differing in small details:
Brown collar, black/green collar, black/green/yellow collar
Buttoned collars, non-buttoned collars with a South African flag
Embroidered red Kappa logo, sublimated red Kappa logo, embroidered white Kappa logo
Only the South Africa Football Association (SAFA) badge, SAFA and national team badge
Kappa and SAFA logos printed into the fabric, only the Kappa logo printed into the fabric
All white lower half of the shirt, golden bar at the bottom of the shirt
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a conclusive list about all the minute differences of the various models.
What I can confidently say about my shirt: it was worn by defender Andrew Rabutla, when South Africa faced the Netherlands during the 1997 Nelson Mandela Challenge, an annual friendly match in order to raise money for the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.
The shirt is one of the rarer models, featuring both the SAFA and the dedicated national team badge. There is also a golden/ochre bar on the bottom of the shirt, which isn’t present on any of the other models. I’m actually not sure if this is intentional, as there is a straight little line in the center of said bar, which is probably a marker indicating where to cut the fabric for a new shirt.
The numbers are also quite stiff and semi translucent and have only been used like this for said match.
It’s always great to add a shirt to my collection that has been fascinating me, since I was a child. While I already had a replica of this model, it’s absolutely brilliant to add a genuinely worn specimen, especially considering the recent popularity of this model.