Chris Davis

Why Blue?

I turned Blue at the end of the 1960’s, sometime around my eighth birthday. In retrospect it seems odd that one can become so infatuated with a team thousands of miles away, but City really were the greatest – League champions, FA Cup, League Cup, European Cup Winners’ Cup, and they had the best kit (the red and black away strip in particular) and of course Francis Lee and Colin Bell. And since my local team was Cape Town City it seemed to make a lot of sense at the time.

Following Man City from the southern hemisphere was frustrating to say the least. The best way to keep up to date was by reading magazines like Shoot which arrived two weeks late on the mail ship from Southampton, and by following the reports and scores in the daily newspapers. At Xmas my parents would give me the football annuals which meant I could live out my fantasies for most of the coming year.

I suppose largely because South Africa was a former British colony and many of us had British roots (technically I should have been a Portsmouth or Cardiff City fan), most of the kids at my school followed an English side and City had an impressive following. I distinctly remember one year in junior school playing in a 5-a-side competition and us being not the only side wanting to call ourselves Manchester City. Unfortunately the following in Cape Town has dwindled over the years and most ‘fans’ these days seem to support either the Rags or Liverpool, or to a lesser degree Arsenal and Spurs. The Newcastle and Blackburn shirts that appeared on the streets a few seasons ago seem to have quietly disappeared, to be replaced by the blue of Chelsea. My brother sadly has been following United all this time, so barring some notable exceptions, I have had to endure a lot of abuse since that happy day in 1974 when Denis Law’s goal sent United down to the second division.

I attended a Catholic junior school and at the age of 12 made my confirmation. Those who have been through this ordeal will know that one of the requirements is that you adopt the name of a saint which then becomes your church name. I chose St. Francis – everybody assumed it was because I liked animals, but it really had a lot more to do with Francis Lee. Not long after, I gave up religion but not my worship of Francis Lee.

On Saturdays as the English matches were ending, we would tune in to the BBC World Service on shortwave radio to hear the classified results, and when there was a cup final or international they would relay the match commentary. The reception was usually so poor it sounded like you were listening to the radio from inside a dishwasher with a particularly nasty ear infection.

South Africa only started television broadcasts in the mid-70’s and the chances of seeing British football were very remote. But a small no-star hotel in the centre of town had a bright idea to increase their takings. They flew tapes of Match of the Day etc. from the UK every weekend, and would screen them throughout the following week, so at last we were getting to see our heroes in action and on a regular basis.

At the same time, local football was booming with Cape Town’s two professional sides dominating the league and cup competitions and pulling capacity crowds on Friday evenings. Cape Town City were managed by Roy Bailey (father of Gary, ex-Red and England ‘keeper) and Hellenic by Budgie Byrne (West Ham/Fulham/England). The teams were made up largely of British imports like George Eastham, John Sissons and Ian St John who came out here towards the end of their careers. During the English off-season, players like Francis Lee (imagine how elated I was to get his autograph!), Peter Lorimer, Kevin Keegan, Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst would come out and guest for the local clubs. But once international sanctions began to take hold, things started to change dramatically and South Africa became more and more isolated.

I moved to England in 1979, largely because of the unhealthy political climate – unfortunately the closest ground was Loftus Road and not Maine Road though I was never for one moment tempted to follow QPR (admittedly no great achievement) and my loyalties remained in the North. I spent a lot of time going to live music venues in London and it seemed that even my favourite bands were from Manchester – The Buzzcocks, Magazine, Joy Division, New Order, Durutti Column.

Returning to Cape Town several years later, I saw Peter Reid’s Man City come out to play against local side Santos. I remember being disappointed because Niall Quinn wasn’t in the squad but City, very much in holiday mode, won the match by a one goal margin.

Thanks to satellite I was able to see City as many as ten times this season (how I envy those of you who are able to get to Maine Road regularly) and the final thirty minutes in the promotion rollercoaster against Blackburn must have been one of the most unforgettable and emotional experiences of my life. I pick up the club news regularly on the Internet and of course via the one and only MCIVTA. I only know of about a dozen Blues in Cape Town these days although there are obviously more, and am still regularly asked Why City. Well this is why.

First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #609 on


Chris Davis