When a young Lucky Stylianou turned out for Chiefs in 1978 he was in all terms breaking new ground as he became the first white player to represent the Amakhosi, at a time when multiracial sport in South Africa was not permitted by the government of the time. Stylianou was part of Chiefs pioneering in the old days where the club through its executive chairman, demonstrated that the team was not just about football, it was going to lead the way in ensuring in a broad sense social and racial cohesion and integration in the country.
Stylianou’s acquisition by Chiefs was a demonstration that in its own way the club was going to instill principles of unity, racial desegregation as well as democracy, by bringing together players of different ethnic and racial groupings in the country. In so doing, that gave all players various tools through team meetings and camping out before games the ability to express their thoughts as well as form friendships with players of different racial groups which was not permitted back then.
While Stylianou was followed at Chiefs by many other white players during the apartheid days which included Neil Tovey who was Chiefs captain for almost a decade in the 1990’s, he started what has become a norm for Chiefs to be a reflection of the racial and cosmopolitan make up of South Africa.
Chiefs have always been a club open to all. From inception, there were players from foreign countries and in 1975 Chiefs broke new ground when for a short spell the club signed the Brazilian FIFA World Cup winner Jairzinho who was part of Brazil’s legendary team from the 1970 tournament.
The club and its fans have always been a welcome home for players from all walks of life where meritorious sporting achievement by the players has always been trumped by whatever their racial groupings may be, the all accepting nature has been a hall mark of Amakhosi fans who have over 49 years been welcoming of all Chiefs players, as well as coaching staff.
While Chiefs did always have players from COSAFA members countries in their team in the late 1990’s, the team cast their net further afield roping in players from new markets in Africa such as Nigeria and Cameroon. While heading into the 21st Century the club had gone onto be represented by players from Cote D’Ivoire, DR Congo and Ghana, In the last few seasons, new ground has been broken with Chiefs being represented by a Venezuelan, Colombian and a Madagascan and in the current season Samir Nurković became the first Serbian player to represent the club.
The Amakhosi were champions of multiracial sport in the dark days of apartheid and the path set by Chiefs Executive Chairman Kaizer Motaung in forging national unity through sport did not go unnoticed. Chiefs won their most famous fan in the form of the late former South African struggle hero and anti- apartheid activist Nelson Mandela who admired what Chiefs had come to represent through its love and peace motto.
As the club continues towards its celebration of half a century in existence next year, it will continue to work to promote cultural, religious and racial tolerance both in the sporting sphere as well as socially. Its teams from the 1970’s have been representative of the global village that we live in and through football Chiefs will ensure to play its part in making the world a beautiful place.