Tombstone Tuesday: football and vandalism

Yesterday I took my son to the Pretoria Showgrounds to write an exam, and while waiting for him I visited the Rebecca Street Cemetery nearby. I didn’t see any tombstones belonging to my family, though I did see one for Loftus Versveld, after whom our city’s biggest football stadium is named. I had sometimes wondered who Loftus Versveld was, and there was the answer — Robert Owen Loftus Versveld, 1862-1932. In addition to the tombstone, there was a stone from the Northern Transvaal Rugby Board, acknowledging his services to rugby. And Loftus Versveld Stadium is, of course, a bigger and more prominent memorial, the home of the Blue Bulls, the Northern Transvaal Rugby Team.

I wonder what Loftus Versveld would have thought of the World Cup Soccer tournament matches being played there next month. For a long time Loftus Versveld stadium was only used for rugby, and we went to the very first soccer match ever played there, on 12 October 1992, when local team Mamelodi Sundowns played Sheffield Wednesday. Actually that wasn’t the first soccer match, because there was a curtain raiser with a women’s team from Kaiser Chiefs playing against Sundowns, and the Chiefs won easily. So perhaps history was being made in more senses than one — it may have been the first time women had played in the Loftus Versveld stadium. The main match, between Sundowns and Sheffield Wednesday, was a draw. Just before the big match some people paraded around the field with a banner saying “Snor City welcomes soccer”, a reference to the fact that in those days Pretoria civil servants often sported moustaches.

Rebecca Street Cemetery, Pretoria, Tshwane, from the memorial garden on top of the hill at the northern side

I went up to the highest point of the cemetery, on the northern edge, where there was a memorial garden for cremated ashes. There were some modern ones, with memorial stones in neat rows. And then there was an older rockery, rather pleasant, except that many of the niches had been broken open, and the ashes stolen.

Rebecca Street Cemetery, Pretoria - vandalised niches and memorial tablets, from which cremated ashes had been stolen

I wondered who would do such a thing, and why.

It doesn’t seem to make any sense. What makes cremated ashes valuable to thieves?

More vandalised memorials in the memorial garden at the Rebecca Street Cemetery

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