National Football League (South Africa)

The National Football League (NFL) was the first professional association football league in South Africa, established in 1959.[1] At first the NFL received stiff opposition from the SAFA, the amateur governing body which controlled the major football grounds in the county. The SAFA was a member of FIFA at the time.

National Football League
Country South Africa
Most championshipsHighlands Park (8 titles)

Initially, only two areas of South Africa were represented - Transvaal and Durban - but gradually the league became more geographically representative. The teams that joined the league in 1959 were-Transvaal (9 teams)-Rangers, Germiston Callies, Arcadia Shepherds, Benoni United, Randfontein, Pretoria City, Brakpan United, Johannesburg City & Southern Park. Natal (3 teams)-Durban City, Durban United & Maritzburg Celtic. The League kicked-off on 4 July 1959 (only one round was played).

A promotion play-off for the Champions of the various State Leagues was introduced in 1962, and the league spread to Cape Town (1962), Bloemfontein (1963) and Port Elizabeth (1964). An NFL Division II was established in 1969, with the Champions promoted to Division I.[2][3] The league was competitive during the apartheid era, and only white players were allowed to participate. However a few NFL teams traveled to neighboring countries to play friendlies.1961 Durban City beat a multi-racial Salisbury Combined XI 8-2 at the Glamis Stadium. An NFL XI lost to a Rhodesian XI 2-6, at the Raylton Sports ground. Germiston Callies played a non-white team, Black Pirates in Maseru, Lesotho. 25 February 1961.

However, black players did participate in the competition. The first to do so was Vincent Julius, he represented Arcadia Shepherds in 1976 versus Highlands Park. Highlands Park protested Julius' presence but the NFL allowed him to play. The South African Home Office took no action having been convinced by Arcadia Shepherds that the story would be told all around the world and cast the ruling party in a bad light.

When NFL folded after 18 years in 1977, it was superseded by a non-racial league. In practical terms, a merger happened between NFL (for whites) and NPSL (for blacks), to become the new common NPSL.


Year Winners Runners-up Third place
1959 Durban City (1) Rangers Johannesburg Durban United
1960 Highlands Park (1) Durban City Germiston Callies
1961 Durban City (2) Highlands Park Germiston Callies
1962 Highlands Park (2) Southern Suburbs Durban City
1963 Addington (1) Highlands Park Durban City
1964 Highlands Park (3) Durban City Durban United
1965 Highlands Park (4) Cape Town City Durban City
1966 Highlands Park (5) Port Elizabeth City Durban United
1967 Port Elizabeth City (1) Highlands Park Cape Town City
1968 Highlands Park (6) Durban United Powerlines
1969 Durban Spurs (2*) Powerlines Highlands Park
1970 Durban City (3) Cape Town City Maritzburg
1971 Hellenic (1) Cape Town City Durban City
1972 Durban City (4) Hellenic Berea Park
1973 Cape Town City (1) Highlands Park Hellenic
1974 Arcadia Shepherds (1) Cape Town City Maritzburg
1975 Highlands Park (7) Hellenic Maritzburg
1976 Cape Town City (2) Highlands Park Wits University
1977 Highlands Park (8) Lusitano Durban United
  • Note that Addington were known as Durban Spurs when they won their second championship.


Team Titles Years
Highlands Park
1960, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1975, 1977
Durban City
1959, 1961, 1970, 1972
Durban Spurs
1963, 1969
Cape Town City
1973, 1976
Port Elizabeth City
Arcadia Shepherds

Individual Honours

Year Player of the Year Footballer of the Year Foreign Player of the Year Top Scorer
1959 Rocco Smith (Benoni United) N/A N/A Les Salton (Durban City) 21
1960 Malcolm Rufus (Durban City) N/A N/A Pip Hughes (Highlands Park) 37
1961 Les Salton (Durban City) N/A N/A Les Salton (Durban City) 46
1962 George Barratt (Durban City) N/A N/A Peter McEwan (Germiston Callies) 36
1963 Ken Denysschen (Durban City) N/A N/A Bazil Johnson (Arcadia United) 43
1964   Bobby Chalmers (Durban City) N/A N/A Les Salton (Durban United) 42
1965 Malcolm Rufus (Highlands Park) N/A N/A Arne Bjørnstad (Boksburg) & Freddie Kalk (Highlands Park) 33
1966 Freddie Kalk (Highlands Park) Robin Lowe (Durban United)   Willie McIntosh (Highlands Park)   Walter da Silva (Highlands Park) 44
1967 Bob Davies (Rangers) Charlie Naude (Germiston Callies)   Bryan Orritt (Southern Suburbs)  Jim Scott (Durban City) 28
1968 Henry Hauser (Addington) Derek Smethurst (Durban City)   Peter Rath (Powerlines) Stan Forster (Rangers) 32
1969 Richard Allen (Cape Town City) Frank Pereira (Powerlines)   Gary France (Cape Town City)  Walter da Silva (Powerlines) 21
1970 Archie Soekoe (Rangers) Bennie Booysen (Southern Suburbs)    Tony Macedo (Durban City)  Jim Scott (Durban City) 31
1971   George Eastham (Hellenic) Ronnie Mann (Durban City)   Ben Anderson (Cape Town City)   Jim Scott (Durban City-16/Durban United-6) 22
1972 Trevor Gething (Berea Park) Wilf de Bruin (Hellenic)   Johnny Haynes (Durban City) Wilf de Bruin (Hellenic) 26
1973 Ian Bender (Durban Celtic) Hennie Joubert (Highlands Park)   Peter Withe (Arcadia Shepherds) Wilf de Bruin (Hellenic) 24
1974 Steve Wegerle (Arcadia Shepherds) Steve Wegerle (Arcadia Shepherds)   Dave Huson (Hellenic) Ian Bender (Durban Celtic) 17
1975 Gary France (Cape Town City) 20
1976 Chris Chilton (Highlands Park) 19
1977 Ian Bender (Maritzburg) Tony Stathakis (Highlands Park) 28

Leading Aggregate Goalscorers

Total Player Clubs Seasons
253 Les Salton Durban City (109)
Durban United (144)
205  Bobby Chalmers Durban City (106)
Durban United (50)
Maritzburg (49)
196 Freddie Kalk Southern Suburbs (64)
Highlands Park (132)
192 Wilf De Bruin Hellenic FC (192) 1970-1983
184 Arne Bjørnstad Boksburg (143)
Southern Suburbs (41)
157  Jim Scott Durban City (129)
Durban United (22)
Johannesburg Corinthians (5)
Maritzburg (1)
154  Vernon Wentzel Durban City (46)
Addington (108)
153 Percy Owen Rangers Johannesburg 1960-68
142  Walter da Silva Hellenic (18)
Highlands Park (64)
Powerlines (50)
Berea Park (10)
136 Ronnie Mann Durban United (87)
Durban City (41)
Guild Apollo (8)
132 Danny Le Roux Durban City (58)
Durban United (71)
Addington (3)

List of NFL Clubs (1959–1977)

Club Location Seasons Name changes, mergers etc.
Addington Durban 1962-68= (=Durban Spurs)
Arcadia Shepherds Pretoria 1959-62; =69-77 Merged with ISCOR Pretoria (=Arcadia United=)
ARCADIA UNITED Pretoria 1963-68= Merger of Arcadia Shepherds and ISCOR Pretoria (=Arcadia Shepherds)
BENONI UNITED East Rand 1959-63 Merged with Brakpan United and Springs (Transvaal Lge.) (=East Rand United)
Berea Park Pretoria 1960-64; 70-76 Merged with Pretoria City
BLOEMFONTEIN CITY Bloemfontein 1963-66; 69-71
Boksburg East Rand 1960-67; 74
BRAKPAN UNITED East Rand 1959-63 Merged with Benoni United and Springs (Transvaal Lge.) (=East Rand United)
Cape Town City Cape Town 1962-77
DURBAN CELTIC Durban 1972-74= (=Pinetown Celtic)
Durban City F.C. Durban 1959-77
DURBAN SPURS Durban =1969 (Addington=) Merged with Durban United (=Durban Spurs United)
DURBAN SPURS UNITED Durban 1970= Merger of Durban Spurs and Durban United (=Durban United)
Durban United Durban 1959-69; =71-77 Merged with Durban Spurs (=Durban Spurs United=)
EAST LONDON CELTIC East London 1969-70 Merged with East London City (Cape Eastern Lge.) (=East London United)
East London United East London 1971-77 Merger of East London Celtic and East London City (Cape Eastern Lge.)
EAST RAND UNITED East Rand 1964; 66 Merger of Benoni United, Brakpan United and Springs O.B. (Transvaal Lge.). Played on in the Transvaal Lge. as East Rand United, before resurfacing as Benoni United in NFL's new Division Two.
Germiston Callies East Rand 1959-77
GUILD APOLLO West Rand 1976= Merger of Jewish Guild and Johannesburg Corinthians (=Roodepoort Guild)
Hellenic Cape Town 1964-77
Highlands Park Johannesburg 1960-70; =73-77 Merged with Powerlines (=Highlands Power=)
HIGHLANDS POWER Johannesburg 1971-72= Merger of Highlands Park and Powerlines (=Highlands Park)
ISCOR PRETORIA Pretoria 1961-62 Merged with Arcadia Shepherds (=Arcadia United)
Jewish Guild West Rand 1971-75 Merged with Johannesburg Corinthians (=Guild Apollo)
JOHANNESBURG CITY Johannesburg =1960-61 (Northern United=) Played on in the Transvaal Lge. until 1964, then merging with Marist Brothers AFC
Johannesburg Corinthians Johannesburg 1967-69 Played on in the NFL's new Division Two until merging with Jewish Guild (=Guild Apollo)
JOHANNESBURG RAMBLERS Johannesburg 1960-62 Merged with Rangers Johannesburg
JOHANNESBURG WANDERERS Johannesburg 1962-65 Played in provincial competitions as Johannesburg Wanderers, before returning to the national scene as Southern Albion in NFL's new Division Two.
Lusitano Johannesburg 1973-77
MARIST BROTHERS AFC Johannesburg 1960-65 Merged with Johannesburg City
Maritzburg Pietermaritzburg 1968-77 Played in the Natal Lge. as Durban Municipals 1953-67
MARITZBURG CELTIC Pietermaritzburg 1959
NORTHERN UNITED Johannesburg 1959= (=Johannesburg City)
OLYMPIA East Rand 1965-67
PINETOWN CELTIC Durban =1975 (Durban Celtic=)
Port Elizabeth City Port Elizabeth 1964-73
Powerlines East Rand 1968-70 Merged with Highlands Park (=Highlands Power)
PRETORIA CITY Pretoria 1959 Merged with Berea Park (Transvaal Lge.)
RANDFONTEIN West Rand 1959-61= (=West Rand United)
Rangers Johannesburg Johannesburg 1959-77 Merged with Johannesburg Ramblers
ROODEPOORT GUILD West Rand =1977 (Guild Apollo=)
SHAMROCKS Pietermaritzburg 1975-76
SOUTHERN PARK Johannesburg 1959-60= (=Southern Suburbs)
Southern Suburbs Johannesburg =1961-72 (Southern Park=)
WEST RAND UNITED West Rand =1962-63 (Randfontein=) Played on in the Transvaal Lge. as West Rand United, then Florida
WESTVIEW APOLLON Port Elizabeth 1966-67
Wits University Johannesburg 1976-77

List of 2nd Level Clubs (1969–1975)

Club Location Seasons (NFL2) Notes etc.
BENONI UNITED East Rand 1970 Former NFL team; withdrew after one season
BEREA PARK Pretoria 1969 Former NFL team; returned to the top level as first Champions of NFL's Division Two
BLOEMFONTEIN RANGERS Bloemfontein 1972-73 Relegated
BOKSBURG East Rand 1970-73; 1975 Former NFL team; returned briefly to the top level
DURBAN CELTIC Durban =1970-71 (Escombe=) Promoted
ESCOMBE Durban 1969= (=Durban Celtic)
FLORIDA ALBION West Rand =1970-75 Merger of Florida (Transvaal Lge.) and Southern Albion, both clubs were renamed former NFL teams (West Rand United and Johannesburg Wanderers, respectively).
GERMISTON PRIMROSE CITY East Rand 1971-73 Relegated
HARMONY Free State 1970-71; 74-75
HIBS-AUSONIA Cape Town 1969 Withdrew after a single season despite finishing as Runners-up
JEWISH GUILD West Rand 1969-70 Promoted
JOHANNESBURG CORINTHIANS Johannesburg 1970-75 First team to be relegated to NFL's new Division Two. Merged with Jewish Guild (=Guild Apollo)
KIMBERLEY ATHLETIC Free State 1969-70 Relegated
KOEDOE PARK West Rand 1971-72; 1974 Relegated twice
LUSITANO Johannesburg 1971-72 Promoted
MARIST BROTHERS AFC Johannesburg 1972 Former NFL team; finished last in their only season in Division Two
OLYMPIA East Rand 1973-75 Former NFL team
PARTHENON East Rand 1969-75
PORT ELIZABETH CITY Port Elizabeth 1974-75 Former NFL Champions
SHAMROCKS Pietermaritzburg 1972-74 Promoted
SK WINDHOEK CITY Windhoek, South-West Africa =1974-75 Merger of SK Windhoek (SWA Lge.) and Windhoek City
SOUTHERN ALBION Johannesburg 1969= Had played in the NFL as Johannesburg Wanderers. Merged with Florida (=Florida Albion)
SOUTHERN SUBURBS Johannesburg 1973-75 Former NSL Runners-up
VAAL UNITED West Rand 1970-71; 73-75
VIKTORIA 89 East Rand 1969-75 Had played in the Transvaal Lge. as Sparta Viktoria
WINDHOEK CITY Windhoek, South-West Africa 1970-73= Merged with local club SK Windhoek (=SK Windhoek City)
WINDHOEK RAMBLERS Windhoek, South-West Africa 1969 Withdrew after one season
WITS UNIVERSITY Johannesburg 1969-75 Last team to win promotion from NFL's Division Two

Overseas teams that toured


1961. Leicester City, 1961 F.A.Cup finalists played Durban City on 27 May 1961, at Kingsmead. This was the first time that two professional teams from England and South Africa had played against one another. Leicester City won 2-0. Leicester City drew with Combined Transvaal 1-1, at the Rand Stadium.

1963. Tottenham Hotspur played three games in South Africa. 1st. 5 June 1963. V N.F.L XI @ Stamford Stadium, Durban. Won 5-2. 2nd. 8 June 1963 N.F.L XI @ Hartleyvale, Cape Town. Won 5-1. 3rd. 3 June 1963. V South Africa XI @ Rand Stadium. Won 3-1. The Spurs squad included Danny Blanchflower, Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Smith, Maurice Norman, Len White & Tony Marchi.

1963. Dundee United played three games in July 1963. V Transvaal, won 2-1. V Western Province, Hartleyvale.2 July. Lost 1-2. V Natal. Won 4-2.

1964. Arsenal played five games in May 1964. V Transvaal, Orange Free State won 2-0. 14th. V Natal. Durban Stadium. won 8-2. 17th. V Western Province. Won 5-1. V Eastern Province. Won 6-0. 22nd. V South Africa XI. won 5-0.

1964. Club Atletico Cerro (Uruguay). 14 July 1963. V Durban City. New Kingsmead.C.A.Cerro won 2-0. C.A.Cerro also played Western Province-17 July 1964 & South Africa XI, Rand Stadium. 20 July 1964.

1964. Real Madrid played three games in South Africa. 8 September 1964 V Castle Knights, Rand Stadium, winning 5-2. A N.F.L XI in Durban plus Western Province @ Hartleyvale, which Real Madrid won 4-0. The Real Madrid squad included Ferenc Puskas, Santamaria @ Gento. At this stage Real Madrid had won the European Cup on five consecutive occasions-1956, 1957, 1958, 1959 & 1960.

1964. Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany) played Addington, Highlands Park, Rand Stadium.

See also



  1. ^ "Football in South Africa Timeline 1862-2012 - South African History Online". Retrieved 12 July 2023.
  2. ^ "South African football 1961". RSSSF. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  3. ^ "South African football 1963". RSSSF. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  4. ^ "South Africa League History". RSSSF. Retrieved 3 May 2010.