Through the Eyes of a Football Legend: The Xhalanga Blues FC

Categories Eastern Cape Soccer Legends
LM Slingela

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.

Slingela for Cala Soccer

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.

Blues Revival

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.

Soccer Cala Youngns

“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.”

12 thoughts on “Through the Eyes of a Football Legend: The Xhalanga Blues FC

  1. Yipee!!!

    I like this – us telling our own stories … do keep it up.

    I grew up at a time when we had two teams in those Football Council of Transkei (FOCOTRA) days, Cala Aces and Xhalanga Blues.

    If my memory serves me well, Aces (“Ishokobezi”) were owned by a local businessman, Mr. Mayaba Matshana, who owned the only bakery in town then. A flashy personality, he owned a fleet of cars, including Volvos and BMWs – he also had a horse that he rode to the stadium with.

    It is heartening indeed to see uRadebe omkhulu in this story, “Slulu”!!

  2. There was also hot football club from Lower Lufuta by the name of Juventus FC coached by Mr Mkefa who was hailing from Lower Langanci.
    they played best football but I must alcohol and drug abuse damaged our football.

  3. Kuhle ukuva ngembali yethu nomnombo weziteam, icekwa lilele kulutsha lwanamhlanje uba lufuna ukubayintoni ngomso, uba liyafuna ukuba nalo kubhalwe ngalo emaphepheni nasemakhasini onxibelelwano lunazo zonke izoxhobo zokulixhasa. Bakhona abantu abanomdla ekuxhaseni nasekuphuhliseni umdlalo, ngakumbi owebhola ekhatywayo eCala, uba nje ulutsha lungazinikezela luphume ekuzibandakanyeni kwiziyobisi nobundlobongela.

    Okunye umasipala xa enokhuxhasa gabalala lamaphulo ophuhliso ayeke ukujonga uba uphuhliso luza nobani waphi kungasetyenziswana kuveliswe izakhono zolutsha ibuyele ibhola yaseCala ezingeni eyayililo ngaphambili.

    Huntshu CALUSA ngompapasho.

  4. Jengomntu oke wadlala neziteam zasecala pha nge90’s ndisuka eElliot indeed ibhola ngalomaxesha yayyinto enkulu kuthi silulutsha kodwa ngoku kubi ulutsha luphelela kwidrugs notwala ndigxeka indlela ekuqhutywa ngayo nasezikolweni coz ibhola ibiqala khona ukuze ize kwilokishi nelali zethu masithembe kuzolunga ngenye imini

  5. Eish Mayor, you are taking me down memory lane. The rivalry between Cala Aces and Xhalanga Blues during those days was palpable especially during a derby. I’m reminded of colourful players such as ‘Mdamara’, Ncamile ‘scara’ Fassie, the guy who was a dribbling wizard, i think his surname was Mfundisi. His younger brothers were twins, ‘Winkie’ the goalie, Grompie, the list is endless! It’s one of the tragedies of history that these players never had a chance of playing for the Joburg’s big names!

  6. Very impressive blog! Very interesting stories about football in Cala.
    In our day,—- which would be the days when bo-Malume Silingela—“Bhut Slu” to those near his age, “Slu” to his colleagues, were playing —-there were no Colouted teams and African teams.
    All were playing in the Blues Team as a group of athletes from the same community.
    I still remember the days when the Show Grounds would be full of fans coming to enjoy wonderful soccer from the likes of Sony, Oom Wally, “Mth’omde” Tikana, Skhundla “Hooker” Msikinya, Soul Bruintjies, to mention but a few!
    Let those days return.
    Sundays have never been the same since that tradition of regular football features began to dwindle, and eventually died!
    Let’s hope the Batandwa Ndondo Memorial Cup will encourage peesentday athletes to restore the might of weekend Cala Soccer matches to their original glory, when, because of the matches, virtually the entire community flocked into the Show grounds, to watch some of the finest football you could have anywhere in my opinion!
    Let the good times return!!!

  7. Good thought. I have written a lot about Cala sport & the former Transkei (350 pages including pictures) starting from the 50s to date. Various codes like Soccer, Rugby, Netball, Athletics, Karate(Bista, Ndana, Camel etc) and Beauty contest are contained in the book. The book has touched on social life whereby we feared ghosts, zombis etc at night whereas today we are afraid of people because there are gangsters.

    The major challenge is funding in order to publish the book.

  8. An important aspect that needs to be highlighted regarding sport during the 1980s, is the role of sport in political awareness and development among the youth. Bafana Highlanders, led by Bra Bambo Qongqo, Bra Teddy Tyhobeka, Bra Nelson Ntseke, Bra Steve Lumka and Loyiso Dingiswayo which attracted younger players that were not part of the two main clubs in Cala – Xhalanga Blues and Aces Big Five – was one of those clubs. It was our association with the club and the discussions we had with Bra Bambo, in particular, that made some of us to appreciate that we were not just players, we also had a role to play in society.

    Sport also played a key role in maintaining some level of discipline among young people during the 1980s. As pointed out by Bra D and Ryder, on weekends had something to look forward to. The Slagveld would full of spectators ranging from young to the old, women and men, rich and poor. This limited the time people spent in drinking liquor. Players also found it difficult to drink in public because of the pressure from the community members who could easily confront any player seen drinking at an appropriate time.

    The Xhalanga Soccer Association (XASA), established in the 1980s, played that role. There was sudden increase in the number of clubs from less than ten to about 20 clubs in the district. The clubs became affiliated to XASA that was led by Bra Bambo, Oupa Ndlela, Bonza from Cala Reserve, etc. There was no weekend that was unoccupied by soccer activities.

  9. (SPN) Spain Phillip Ncapayi:
    Late in 1989, NEW GIANTS were born(e) being the amalgamation between Ace Big 5 FC & Xhalanga Blues FC, to overcome the lack of funds & resources to FORM Cala Vanguard FC to be one strongest professional team who played in a league formally known as Ok league, presently termed as (Mvela) MTN league. It was difficult then to get sponsors or to have transports or to travel to matches. Xalanga area was seen being RADICAL (AMADYAKOPHU), by former regime of Transkei.
    The in-school sports were not categorised into ages. High scbools normally played with Junior Secondaries & Tertiary Schools. Sport codes were standardised & not graded. Playing was for fun not for gain.

  10. Interesting book indeed TaRyder. I would like to have a copy of that book when it has been published. We can only build based on the the foundations and history left by our elders. Masingapheli umoya. Ikusasa labantwana bethu lisezandleni zethu.

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