By George Byron
THOUGH the African Bombers Rugby Club’s jersey might represent the colours of the ANC, there was nothing political about Mark Beale’s decision to play for the thriving township club back in the 1970s at the height of the apartheid regime.
Beale was the first white player to join Bombers and his life-long involvement at the club has seen him rise through the ranks to become president of the ambitious Zwide-based club.
Bombers are one of the Bay’s most successful clubs and this year they have beaten top sides Crusaders and a powerful Despatch outfit, who represented Eastern Province at the national club rugby championships.
Beale, 49, did not play rugby when he attended Lawson Brown High School, but his life changed when he started working at Pick n Pay as a casual worker and met new colleague Jim April.
“You must remember that in 1976 the political situation in South Africa was extremely volatile so when I decided to play for Bombers it was a big decision,” recalled Beale.
“Jim asked me to come along and play for Bombers and I agreed. Bombers official and founding member Tami Majola came to my father James’s house to discuss my decision.
“My father told Tami I could play and that when I was in the township he would be my father and that he could do anything he needed to do to make me listen to him.
“Well, from that day on I became a member of the Majola family and today I have a very good relationship with Tami’s son Fezi, who is the current club secretary,” said Beale.
Beale never looked back and he soon became an integral part of the club, playing at fullback or wing.
“Of course things were volatile in the time and I was often stopped by police who wanted to know what I was doing in the township and they often followed me.
“There was nothing political about my decision. All I wanted to do was play rugby. It got so bad I used to be picked up for practices at the Dan Qeqe Stadium by my friend, Norman Tembani. He used to throw a blanket over me as we entered the townships,” recalled Beale.
“I am very proud of the fact that I was the first white to join the club and that I am now the president.”
The Bombers president said the 1970s were an exciting time for township rugby.
“All the clubs used to train at the four fields at the Dan Qeqe Stadium and it was exciting to see.
“I trained alongside the current Kings chief executive, Anele Pamba, at Bombers and they were exciting times.”
Apart from making a name for himself in the rugby world, Beale is also the chief executive of World Wrestling Professionals (WWP) and is a former fighter with the ring name of “The Weasel”.
Apart from his rugby duties, Beale would like to see Nelson Mandela Bay become Africa’s wrestling capital.
“In the past all my wrestling shows have been shot at the Urban Brew Studio in Johannesburg. Now I want it to be filmed in the Bay. A venture like this could create at least 40 new jobs for local people,” said Beale.
The Bay-based WWP organisation is rated among the top five federations in the world and tapes of their televised shows are eagerly sought in India, New Zealand and many African countries.
Beale said he was slightly reticent when it was first mooted that he should stand for the presidency of Bombers.
“When I was first approached I started slowly because I didn’t want people to think I was taking over the club.
“I am now into my second year as president and I am still the only white member of the club. I would like that to change because we want our club to be representative of all races.”
This is a shortened version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, September 22, 2012.