FURD is very sad to hear of the death of Isiaih Stein, who passed away last week. As well as being the father of former professional footballers Edwin, Mark and Brian Stein, he was also a prominent activist in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa who spent time in prison with Nelson Mandela.
In a telephone interview with FURD in 2009 for our 'Offside' research project on South African footballers, son Brian recalled:
"My father was always involved in the fight against apartheid. He was in prison at different times and also kept under 24-hour house arrest. Eventually, the time came when we had to get out.”
Brian also remembers seeing terrible violence in Cape Town and having to give up his seat to white people on the bus. Eventually, Isiaih decided to migrate with his family to England:
"That was 1967. Mark was just a baby but Edwin and myself were already keen on football, although we knew nothing about the game in England."
Yet, all three brothers went on to play professionally at a time when Black South Africans were a rare sight in the English game. Brian recalled,
“It was very difficult for my father to get out of South Africa under the Apartheid government. He carried on the struggle once we settled in the UK, as a committee member of the exiled South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SAN-ROC), which helped play a key role in successfully lobbying for the sports boycott”.
While they left the structural racism of South Africa behind, they encountered both personal discrimination and institutional racism in their adopted country, Brian recalling an occasion when he was called an obscene name by a team mate, provoking a fight in the dressing room.
Mark Stein hit the headlines in season 2003-4 when he asked for a transfer from Dagenham and Redbridge following alleged racist comments against a fellow black player by the team manager.
Realising the consequences of taking a stand, Mark commented at the time,
“I still love playing but I don’t know if I’ll get another club. I sometimes think I might get tarnished, but this is so important to me that I can’t worry about the consequences. With something like this I’ll put my neck on the line. My Dad was a political activist who fought against racism in South Africa all his life. So why should I have to put up with it here?”
Isiaih Stein's funeral will be held on Friday 28th January.
For more about the Stein brothers and other South African footballers playing in the UK, follow the link below.