Cala used to be the breeding place of sport. In the early 50’s, the football teams in Cala were some of the best in the Western Transkei. Then there was Xhalanga Blues FC formed in 1963 by the likes of LM Slingela who played at that time.
Slingela went on to manage Xhalanga Blues FC as a trainer and coach. While he was not formally qualified, he used the skills he had earned on the field during his playing days. The team participated in the then premier league of Transkei with Bush Bucks FC, Liverpool United FC and Thembu Royals FC from Mthatha among others.
Under the segregation of apartheid, one of the strongest opposition teams was the Golden Stars FC who happened to be Coloured. In the years to come, a group of players from the Xhalanga Blues would eventually break away as opposition and become the Cala Vanguard.
During the glory days, in one particularly tense fixture between Xhalanga Blues FC and Bush Bucks FC at the Cala Stadium, Xhalanga Blues FC was winning 3-0 when the game was disrupted and stopped by the officials because “my boys were too good”, says Slingela.
This happened four times until the fixture was eventually moved to Mthatha where Xhalanga Blues FC succumbed to a loss against Bush Bucks FC. In the 80’s, certain supporters threatened to end the goalkeeper’s life if he allowed the ball through the posts. This is around the time LM Slingela lost a bit of interest in Transkei football.
Today, things are not the same. There’s violence. There’s too much use of liquor. The youngsters often come to the field under the influence. “It’s not easy to manage these boys. You can see yourself being assaulted, they don’t want to be admonished.”
Where before, the players respected the coaches as they were trying to develop them in sports, the situation has changed. On Sundays, the stadium in Cala used to be full. All members of the community, young and old, used to come through to witness the Xhalanga Blues win. There used to be tennis, rugby and netball as well but today those courts are gone. The hope is that we can revive them.
Today, there’s no surviving strong football team from Cala. The “young chaps” have lost interest. But there is an effort to go back and revive football in Cala. There’s hope for the Xhalanga Blues FC again and there’s been talk of someone reviving the team to its former glory once again. Back then, the team was mostly composed of students. So the method would hopefully be the same this time around, whereby Xhalanga Blues FC would develop and utilize the talent in the local schools.
“Crime is rife here,” says Slingela, “If we could manage to get the boys to take to sports, that would be best here… we could groom these youngsters early. We’re prepared to support here as long as there’s discipline.”