Makana founders' football love affair
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'More Than Just a Game' is a movie that traces the lives of five men who came together to start a football association in exceptionally adverse circumstances - and the most unlikely of locations. The quintet, Lizo Sitoto, Sedick Isaacs, Sipho Tshabalala, Mark Skinners and Anthony Suze, were all political prisoners along with Nelson Mandela at South Africa's infamous Robben Island.

It was there that they started Makana FA, named in honour of one of the first political prisoner on the island, tribal leader Makana. The founding members recently received honorary membership to FIFA, and four of them - Sitoto, Isaacs, Tshabala and Skinners - spoke exclusively to about their experiences and how, for them, football really was more than just a game. Was there generally cooperation between prisoners?
Sedick Isaacs: Cooperation took place on all levels, we taught each other, music, soccer and other competitive activity. It was firstly political education, secondly academic education and thirdly sport, and mainly soccer

How did the Makana Football Association start?
Sipho Tshabalala: When you are in prison, especially in a situation of degradation, you learn to get what you want. And fortunately, we got a referees charter. God alone knows where from, but we had one. The referees charter became our bible.

Lizo Sitoto: We were also young at that time, full of energy, and we needed to expend that energy. We wanted to get closer to one another because we were in different areas of the prison, and one way to do this was through sport.

Could you have imagined that FIFA would be making Makana FA an honorary member?
Tshabalala: It was remote, but then, no constructive effort goes unnoticed. It is like a seed that lands on fertile ground - for ten years it will cease, and one day it will blossom. It was just a question of time and patience.

Why did you choose to play football?
Isaacs: (laughing) I tried to bring handball to the island but was met with fierce opposition, as the prisoners thought it was a girls' sport! We were also desperate for order, and the FIFA rules gave us order in our lives.

Tshabalala: It was more therapeutic for us, and our lives here. It made us feel like we were human beings, it made us feel that at least we were not isolated.

Mark Skinners: Football was very important because, while we were on Robben Island, one of the things that kept us sane was this constant link of wanting to know what was going on in the outside world, the normal things that people do like going to soccer matches. It affirmed that.

How did football help you cope with being imprisoned?
Skinners: We became part of something. Partly it was the feeling that by assisting or playing and forcing the authorities (the prison guards) to play, you actually get them to back down on something they were trying to deny you. It said that as a person, I want my dignity and I am not as isolated from the world as you people think. There was that sentiment in all of us.

Sitoto: Some of the players were our heroes, like Ruud Gullit, who won the European player of the year in 1987 and dedicated it to Mandela. We all identified with him and as a result a lot of people had dreadlocks.