- Title: Wentworth: The Beautiful Game and the Making of Place
- Author: Ashwin Desai
- Publisher: UKZN Press
- Country of Origin: South Africa
- Publication Year: 20109
- ISBN: 9781869144463
- Bib. Info: Paperback; 256pp
In the early 1960s, the city of Durban consolidated racially circumscribed group areas with brutal intensity. In the tiny enclave of Wentworth, designated a Coloured area, newly relocated residents made their homes and sought work in the numerous heavy industries that proliferated on its edges. As people built places of worship and newborn friendships reached across fences and staircases, soccer became the game of choice. Rudimentary pitches were marked out, cool drinks staked and the game unfolded with a mixture of delicate touches and bruising tackles. By the early 1970s, Wentworth’s ability to spawn soccer talent, headlined by the glamorous Leeds United, grew into the stuff of legend.
Ashwin Desai digs deep into this history, bringing to life those who inspired and played the game when Wentworth was nothing more than a jumble of shacks and whitewashed blocks of flats, watched over by plumes of smoke from local factories that blackened the sky and slowly poisoned the body. The book’s power comes from its ability to keep its focus on soccer while situating the game in the broader social relations, as geography and history, spatial and temporal meld into a beguiling narrative. Page after page reveals writing of haunting power and sensitivity as memories are cajoled from ageing soccer legends and the interior lives of families are illuminated. It is an evocative exemplar of how community history should be brought to life.
Ashwin Desai is Professor of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg. Among his books on sport are an edited collection, The Race to Transform: Sport in Post-Apartheid South Africa and Reverse Sweep: A Story of South African Cricket Since Apartheid.