Robben Island is a notorious symbol of South Africa's apartheid regime: a prison with a history of violently oppressing political dissidents. The infamous jail was, however, the setting for an improbable triumph of the human spirit, when five political prisoners joined together to form the Makana Football Association and even organise a league of sorts on the island. Those men were Lizo Sitoto, Sedick Isaacs, Sipho Tshabalala, Mark Skinners and Anthony Suze.
Despite the difficult circumstances, the Makana FA complied strictly with FIFA Rules and Regulations. A referees charter added structure to their matches, and their lives, and brought hope to the football players on the dusty fields of Robben Island. Many of the prisoners were incarcerated without trial, and football became a way for them to escape their cruel existence in a maximum security prison. As Tshabalala explained: "It made us feel like we were human beings, it made us feel that at least we were not isolated."
The story might be set on Robben Island, but the themes in the movie are universal and its inspirational message will certainly appeals to anyone who has ever found themselves in adverse or trying circumstances. Its producer, Anant Singh, certainly believes that the movie will touch audiences. He said of the heroes of the story: "They all banded together and tried to survive, enduring some of the harshest conditions known to man, using football as a means to build moral and mutual respect."
It is apt that the movie premieres at the Preliminary Draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. The first FIFA World Cup on the African continent is certainly aiming to promote a message of hope by emphasising the power of football in furthering worthy causes such as the 'Win in Africa, with Africa' programme.
The movie stars Presley Chweneyagae, who starred in the Oscar-winning 'Tsotsi', and features appearances from the Makana FA's founding members, as well as ex-players. The trailer for 'More Than Just a Game' is also available on FIFA.com.