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Black History Month: Africa’s oldest team

In 1882, Africa got its first soccer team.

Source: Savages FC Twitter

In the late 1800s, soccer was starting to come into form as teams were founded all over Europe. Soccer as a game was documented as being on the lands of Africa as early as 1862, a year before soccer’s official rules were codified. Back then teams that played just used their own rules.

Eventually, teams became more than just a group of players and officially became something established. In 1882, soccer finally had a home in Africa as its first team was created. That team was Savages FC.

Savages Football Club (initally founded as Savage Football Club) was founded by troops from England and Wales who were fans of an English team with the same name. It set up a home base in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, where the troops were stationed, and on August 29, 1882, the team had its first recorded match against Hilton College. Savages won 3-1.

Back then, Savages wore black shirts, knickers, and stockings with a plain white shield and an assegai spear on the chest. However, not much more is known about the early days of Savages FC. There are photos of Savages FC teams from the early 1900s, but the recorded history is spotty before that. Savages still exists today, playing in South Africa’s Natal Midlands Football Association (NMFA).

The team has membership in the Club of Pioneers, who lists them as the 8th oldest soccer team in the world. The Club of Pioneers was founded by Sheffield Football Club, the oldest soccer team in the world. Criteria for inclusion in the Club of Pioneers includes still playing soccer today, having consistently existed since their day of foundation (except for breaks for war), the oldest existing team in their country, and live and support the values of amateur soccer (integrity, respect, community). Savages FC is the only team from Africa on the Club of Pioneers list.

Savages FC has helped paved the way for so many clubs and leagues on the African continent. To see them still around is a testament to their strength even through lean times to endure and continue to make the game great in their community. Their history should be preserved as well for future generations to learn that longevity in African soccer is spelled S-A-V-A-G-E-S.

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For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing a story each day this month to highlight some of the biggest moments in black American and world soccer history.