Wonder of Westcliff wiped out

This picture shot in the early 2000s shows children enjoying the facilities at the Westcliff Stadium during a Junior Soccer Development League event. | SUPPLIED

This picture shot in the early 2000s shows children enjoying the facilities at the Westcliff Stadium during a Junior Soccer Development League event. | SUPPLIED

Published Apr 14, 2024


Durban — When the bustling suburb of Chatsworth is spoken of, the Westcliff Stadium seldom gets a mention, yet its contribution to growth and development of this community for more than 50 years has been immeasurable.

This largely sporting venue with four football fields, a cricket pitch and two practice nets, which has also hosted a number of cultural and religious events, is the focus of this week’s Then and Now feature.

The venue is also known as the “3B” Stadium, indicative of the days when the various parts of Chatsworth were known by their unit numbers.

Westcliff was “Unit 3” and divided into an “A” and “B” parts.

While the area was farmland for much of its early existence, it became a residential hub when “Indians” were plucked out of other parts of Durban and plonked there from 1964 onwards.

Some locals estimate the stadium was erected late in the 1960s and its “main” or “Number 1 ground”, fitted with grandstand seating, was best known for the many epic football matches it hosted since its inception.

On some match days when the likes of Bluff Rangers, Dimes, Saints and Buccaneers played in the earlier years, even the banks and touchlines around the main playing field were flooded with spectators.

The Bluff Rangers lined up and ready ahead of a fixture at a packed-to-capacity Westcliff Stadium in the 1970s. | SUPPLIED

Some religious events, the hugely popular Milk Carnival, sponsored by Clover Dairies and orchestrated by yesteryear politician Amichand Rajbansi, and wrestling matches featuring Tiger Singh, were also crowd pullers.

It’s been a while since Westcliff received those levels of spectator attention and those in the know say a myriad of reasons contributed to this decline.

As it stands, the venue needs many licks of paint and TLC if it is to bear any resemblance to the days when it had pride of place in Chatsworth.

The main field is not in use because of water seepage onto the playing surface, and the two outlying fields (No 3 and 4) are in a similar state of disrepair.

There is no tap water at any of the fields and the two change rooms near the main grandstand are derelict.

For many years the red brick and concrete slabbed grandstand seating was an outstanding feature at Westcliff.

But the old grandstand was stripped and replaced with a considerably reduced concrete structure in the early 2000s, and is badly worn out.

Tiny Kistan, a former president of the Chatsworth Football Association, affiliated to Safa, and an honorary member of the Safa eThekwini Region, said the condition of the facility had worsened progressively over the years.

Kistan said the main factors in Westcliff’s degeneration were the eThekwini Municipality’s budget constraints and the impacts of vandalism.

He noted poor drainage infrastructure had created a perennial problem.

Kistan said during his tenure, hands-on involvement was required from him, committee members and others for the upkeep of the venue, over and above work done by the municipality.

It was a huge benefit to have a dedicated groundsman (Taylor Moonsamy) at Westcliff in the past, Kistan said.

He has many fond memories of the facility, where Chatsworth’s first football fixtures were played.

The Westcliff Stadium’s change room facility is no longer in use. Shelley Kjonstad Independent Newspapers

For Kistan, the “glory days” included the “Sam China Cup” matches that pitted Indian provincial teams against each other, various Clover Cup games, which involved teams like Bluff Rangers, Young Springboks, Spearman Lads, Young Aces and the youngsters from Kingston taking on Real Rovers.

“The best match I witnessed was between Dimes and Cape Town Aces in the early 1970s, which the home side won 3-2.”

Nelson “Spinx” Kuppan, current president of the Chatsworth Football Association, said they were soldiering on and committed to promoting and developing the sport in the community despite the challenges.

Kuppan said they were excited that Field No 4 was rehabilitated and ready for use and hoped for the same at No 3.

As a way forward, Kuppan suggested the municipality should consider entering into lease agreements with clubs that had the desire and resources to manage sports fields around Chatsworth.

He also remembered how the big football matches at the stadium brought the community together.

“As a player myself and watching professionals like Derrick Naidoo, the goalkeeper of Federation Professional League (FPL) team Aces, running onto the field with huge crowds watching, was a great feeling,” said Kuppan.

Naidoo recalled playing at Westcliff.

“Those were some of the best days in my playing career. We always felt at home and having the fans so close to the action always gave us an advantage,” he said.

Stanley Govender excelled at both football and cricket. He played professionally for Berea in the FPL and had multiple caps for the old Natal Cricket Board team and his club side Chatsworth United.

United used Westcliff as their home venue when they played in the Super League.

“Chatsworth United were unbeaten at that venue for many seasons in the 1980s,” he said.

“Western Province usually thrashed Natal when we played them in away games, but when we hosted them twice at Westcliff, we managed wins.”

Govender recalled making his way to the venue as a boy to watch football games before he shot to prominence with Berea.

The Westcliff Stadium in its current state: in dire need of much TLC. | SHELLEY KJONSTAD Independent Newspapers

Daya Govender remembered captaining his Saints team to a 5-3 extra-time win over Bluff Rangers in the 1968 Clover Cup final played in Westcliff.

“Gokul Pather scored two goals for us after we were locked at 3-3 after full-time,” said Daya Govender.

Babes Govender, a Safa-accredited football coach who was involved with the Junior Soccer Development League, said their previous initiatives drew hundreds of schoolchildren to Westcliff.

“It will take much effort to restore this venue to its former glory,” said Babes Govender.

Independent on Saturday

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