“To have a football was to have arrived”

By Gemma Mcdonald | March 4th, 2016 2 Comments

Vassen_bookBob Vassen’s passing fills me with immense sadness.


A great friend to those of us who had the privilege of knowing him. A courageous South African who fought for the freedom of his country, at home and in exile as a member of Umkhonto weSizwe (The Spear of the Nation). A committed teacher who mentored thousands of students, young and not so young, internationally. An intellectual who was as incisive as he was humble. Consider his masterful editorial work in Ahmed Kathrada’s Letters from Robben Island, published by Michigan State University Press.


And Bobby, as his friends called him, was also a football man. Like his father before him, he had played for one of Johannesburg’s oldest teams: Moonlighters FC, founded by Indian service workers in 1892. Growing up in Fordsburg and Doornfontein, gritty working-class neighborhoods in Johannesburg, “to have a football was to have arrived,” he recalled.


A few years ago, I had the honor of interviewing him about his football life. You can watch the full interview here.


Our heartfelt condolences go out to Ursula and the entire Vassen family. We miss you Uncle Bobby.

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Sarah buchanan

March 10th, 2016 | 6:08 pm    

I was very luck to have met this man he was my neighbour and Ursula, looked after me before I went to school in the leafy suburbs of catford London, growing up with bob,ursula, Barry an d Shaun as neighbours was such a memorable experience for me, for a start Shaun and Barry were older than me and so handsome I fancied the pants off them and because I was the youngest I was just an annoying geek! Ursula was so lovely and kind and put up with me asking questions in her kitchen whilst she made me chop garlic for dinner. I was so young then, so I didn’t really understand or was even interested in those conversations between my parents and Bob and Ursula, the stories they told my parents over dinner parties about their lives in sa, but it was all absorbed it all went in some how and even though I havnt seen Bob for many many years that family help mould me into the person I am today and I am simply devastated to hear this sad news and it breaks my heart that this man isn’t here to mould any more of us. I will always be thinking of you bob. Xx


March 11th, 2016 | 6:47 am    

Thank you for sharing, Sarah.

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