Founding father wears many hats

MZOXOLO BUDAZA

The name Ebrahim Abdullah is synonymous with football in Mitchell’s Plain and it is almost impossible to talk about the history of the game in this part of the city without mentioning, or hearing about, this name.

Abdullah is one of the many legends who have watched the game evolve – and contributed to its development – over the past 40 years. And, after all these years, he’s still going strong.

This, he said, was inspired by his love of the sport more than anything.

The Plainsman’s interview with him took place over two weeks. The second one took place on a Sunday morning at the Grand Parade. He had just completed this year’s Slave Route Challenge race.

Despite his age – he was born more than 70 years ago – and the challenging race he had just ran, Abdullah didn’t show any sign of being exhausted.

Instead, he was ready to continue telling his story. Wearing spectacles, a yellow T-shirt and blue track pants, Abdullah, also known as “Boeta Hiemie” got himself comfortable on a bench before starting.

“Football has been part of me for many years and that is why you can’t separate me from football,” he said.

Abdullah is so passionate about the game that he gets close to tears each time he goes down memory lane. He said the game has evolved a lot since his own playing days. Born in District 6, Abdullah later moved to Salt River where, at the age of 13, he played for Blackpool AFC.

He said deciding to play football came naturally to him because Salt River was, back then, known as the “Mecca” of football.

His family then moved to Mitchell’s Plain in 1976 and that’s when his 40-year-long association with Mitchell’s Plain football began.

“There were only a few clubs in the area at the time (eight to be exact) and they only played friendly matches on Sundays,” he said.

Abdullah said he, together with the late Chris Stevens, started the first official football association in Mitchell’s Plain, back in 1977.

“At that stage, Mitchell’s Plain had three suburbs, Westridge, Woodlands and a small portion of Portland,” he said.

The association was named the Mitchell’s Plain Football Association and, thanks to Abdullah and his colleagues, it was later affiliated with the Western Province Football Board.

He said it was not surprising that Mitchell’s Plain have, for many years, consistently produced some of the country’s finest football talent. This, he said, was because a solid foundation was laid a long time ago.

“There have always been talented administrators and players in Mitchell’s Plain. That is why football here took off quickly and also the reason why we continue producing some of the best players,” he said.

His work didn’t end at being an administrator as he was also an active referee. It also went beyond the confines of football as he was, in one way or another, involved in other sports as well as in broader community activities. He was, for instance, a founder member of Westridge Cricket Club (which is now known as Mitchell’s Plain Cricket Club), Westridge Sports Board of Control and Westridge Rate Payers Association.

Looking ahead, Abdullah said he was confident the future of the game in Mitchell’s Plain was even brighter. This, he said, was because there were many astute football administrators who have what is required to successfully take the game to another level.

“They just need the support of everyone involved in the game. “On the playing side, the area will continue producing some of the country’s best, as the platform to do so is there,” he said.