“How many people know that a football match has been played upon the top of Table Mountain? Yet it was so, for in the very early ‘nineties (1890s) there was a description of how the corporals and lance corporals of the North Staffordshire Regiment, then stationed at the Cape, climbed the mountain with that very purpose. The opposing sides were ‘A’ team and ‘B’ team and the result was a draw of one all. The pitch was between Platteklip Gorge and Maclear’s Beacon and one would imagine that unless they played well to the southward, the duties of linesman on the northern side must have been a little nerve-racking.”
Extract from an article in the 1937 Journal of the Mountain Club of South Africa
There you have it: not everyone hikes up Table Mountain just for the views. It’s not known whether it was their first visit to the summit, but they may have been surprised to find the ‘Tabletop’ less suited for a football match than its appearance from below had led them to believe.
The summit of Table Mountain – also referred to as the summit plateau, the upper plateau or simply the Table – roughly resembles a slender triangle in shape when viewed from above, measuring about 2.6 kilometers long by 1.2 kilometers at its widest point. As far as mountaintops go, it’s pretty flat, the featureless terrain broken only by a few minor ridges and knolls up to 20 meters high. But only small patches are perfectly flat, looking like a neglected sports field. A prominent feature is an indentation or dip about 20 meters deep and 30 meters wide, formed where Platteklip Gorge – a large ravine slashing up the front side of the mountain – meets the summit. This divides the summit plateau into two areas: the eastern Table (located east of this hollow) and the much smaller western Table, on which the upper cable station is located. The corporals of the Staffordshire Regiment chose the eastern Table as their pitch, no doubt because it offered a larger playing area and therefore less chance of losing the ball over the edge. Still, it must have been an interesting affair, with much of the terrain uneven and bushy.
With Table Mountain now being a national park and a World Heritage site, hikers and cableway visitors are required to remain on recognized paths to lessen the impact on the unique and sensitive indigenous vegetation. So it’s unlikely we will see a repeat of the Staffordshire Regiment’s antics anytime soon.
Although people still hike up Table Mountain for odd reasons, playing a football match is not one of them.