Playing at Lords Ground

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By Gerald Buttigieg- March 2007

I was at Marist Brothers', St. Henry's, from 1954 to 1961, and there were, if I recall, not that many boy's high schools in Durban. DHS, Glenwood, Port Natal, Mansfield, Marist, Northlands and Tech College were just about the only ones I can remember. All the Durban boys' schools were strictly rugby and cricket playing. St Henry's was not a large school in numbers and in my time could only just muster a 1st XV and 2nd XV Rugby team and I distinctly remember we never played Port Natal because they grew beards.

It came as quite a shock to the St. Henry's principal (Brother Ezekiel) when one of the Old Boys, the late Des Moran, and his friend Vic Nardini approached him about allowing St. Henry's to field a soccer team in the Under 16 Durban Soccer League. This was sacrilege in a rugby playing school !! I do not know how much Des had to twist Brother Ezekiel's arm but I remember there were certain conditions applied. One, the soccer side would not be supported by the school in any way although we could train there, but not in public view. The players, if selected for a rugby team, had to give that preference over soccer and the team would be allowed to wear the school's blue and gold colours. Finally, it was over to Des to sort out all the logistics.

Des Moran at the time worked for T.W. Beckett (Five Roses Tea) which had an office in Point Road and he drove an Austin Cambridge which I think was a "rare" company car in those days. Des and Vic both had a love of soccer above rugby and, at the time, Marist Brothers Old Boys in Johannesburg had one of the best amateur sides in South African football; Marists in Cape Town was a local household name and, even in Durban, the old boys fielded sides in the local amateur soccer league. Des, I think, was trying to get some young blood interested in the local Marist team.

I cannot recall how it came about but Des organized for all those interested in playing soccer to meet one Friday late afternoon on St Henry's bottommost field (the fields are layered). We had just enough players to field one side and so Des duly entered us in the Under 16 C league although some of us were well below that age group. It had to be a mixed age group or nothing.

Training would have to be on a Friday and Des arranged time off work so that he could get to school by about 3.30 pm. So we used to kick a ball around until he came and trained us. Vic would assist him on some occasions and I recall Topper Brown, who had played professionally in the UK, coming along a couple of times showing us moves which I still see used today; the triangle movement where three players move forward passing the ball in triangle formation.

But, looking back, we were greenhorns and had a woeful record, but Des was never fazed by this as long as we tried. Games were played at Lord's Ground, mainly, but occasionally we had to play in outlying areas such as Hillary. To get there, those who lived out that way or close enough had to make their own way to the ground. Others, who came from other parts of Durban, had to meet outside the OK Bazaars in West Street at an appointed time on the Saturday afternoon and the rule was " if not on time, the car left".

Des somehow would squeeze about 8 of us into that Austin, 5/6 in the back, 2/3 on the front seat. It must have been hilarious to others seeing us bale out at the ground. But somehow we managed. Occasionally, Des's wife, Flower, would come as well to see how the side fared but I honestly cannot remember any parents coming to see us play. We played just for the love of the game I suppose.

Lord's Ground Sport Fields, Old Fort Road Durban, 1957.
St. Henry's Controversial Soccer Team ! Back Row, from left, Luigi ??, Barry Schonewolf, Jack Waldman, Teddy Fabre, Kenny Knipe, Mick Parker, Nigel Irvine. Front row, from left, Gerald Buttigieg, Colin Haughton, Lawrence Farr, Ronnie Fowler, Norman Taylor.

<= Click to view enlargement.

The above photo, which must be unique, was taken in 1957 at Lord's Ground. In the back ground is the corrugated iron fence which I well remember ran right round the perimeter. That day we were lucky as we had one reserve! We often played short. Having no sponsors, we played in school rugby jersies.

Gerald Buttigieg, left, with Des and Flower Moran.

<= Click to view enlargement.

The attempt to start a school team did not last long and, by 1959, it was all over. Des and I remained friends all the years, even more so, when we belonged to the same parish in Westville. We often joked about the team, how badly we fared ( one cup game against an Under 16A side we lost 16-0!!), but it was fun. Sadly, Des is no longer with us but the picture above shows Des and his wife, Flower, when they came to visit me in the Midlands in 2001.

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