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Pioneering Palace in Post-Apartheid South Africa

11 June 2015

In the summer of 1992, Crystal Palace embarked on a pre-season tour that was considered pioneering and progressive at the time, becoming the first foreign football club to visit post-Apartheid South Africa.

The Eagles took a 23-man squad, with a number of high-profile black players among them, to face the Kaizer Chiefs in Johannesburg and the Orlando Pirates in Durban, with both games taking place within 24 hours. Despite winning 3-2 against the Chiefs, Palace were bettered by the Pirates 2-1, though the tour was considered to be about more than just the on-pitch action.

South Africa had not long been readmitted into the international game by FIFA and the interest in English football in the country was high, as television companies began to see the opportunity of showing top-flight matches abroad with the inaugural Premier League season on the horizon, when Palace arrived for their pre-season tour.

Recognised for their exploits in the FA Cup two years earlier, the Eagles' players were well received in South Africa, having been seen to go toe-to-toe with Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United in the final at Wembley in 1990.

Steve Coppell brought a strong, diverse Palace squad with him, including Mark Bright, John Salako, Eric Young, Eddie McGoldrick, Geoff Thomas, Nigel Martyn and Gareth Southgate, and they played their two friendly games against the backdrop of political uncertainty.

Despite the ending of Apartheid, the threat of civil war still loomed large in South Africa, with tensions still high - particularly over race. Football played its part in easing the strain and Palace were retrospectively seen as pioneers for their decision to visit the country at that time - as no British side had been to South Africa since Tottenham Hotspur in 1963. 

This summer's tour will be a chance for the Eagles to return to South Africa and strengthen the relationship that was formed nearly a quarter of a century ago, by competing in the Cape Town Cup.

The Eagles will be one of four teams in the Cup, along with Ajax Cape Town, SuperSport United and Sporting Lisbon, and will play games on July 24th and July 26th at the Cape Town Stadium.

More information can be found HERE and further details will be available at during the build up to the tournament.

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