New soccer centre gives hope to SA youth
Getting hearts pounding and feet dribbling, Stellenbosch University (SU) has unveiled its state-of-the-art Soccer Centre, based at Lentelus. The centre, which forms part of the FIFA 2010 Legacy project, will provide a base for the University’s Youth Sport Initiative, which is aimed at developing young talent through football. This project is in line with SU’s strategic focus on tackling some of the key challenges in South Africa and the continent, and will provide hope for children with a keen interest in the beautiful game.
In this first phase of the project, a full-sized artificial grass pitch and FIFA-approved Futsal (five a side football) courts have been constructed, providing a safe yet stimulating environment for youth from the surrounding communities. These facilities will soon be supplemented by grass and sand courts (for beach soccer), and eventually a full pavilion, upgraded changing facilities and a conference centre, all in a bid to create a central footballing hub for the greater Boland community.
“This centre is the cornerstone of our Stellenbosch 2010 campaign, which saw a number of soccer-related activities promoted across the campus and in the community since June last year. We have set out to make a significant contribution to a successful World Cup, and we did what we said we would,” said Professor Julian Smith, Vice-Rector: Community Interaction and Personnel and head of sport at the University, at the opening ceremony on Tuesday.
“The Youth Sport Initiative which will link with the Soccer Academy and schools will help youth and people with disabilities to develop their skills. We will also look for talent to beat the Dutch in future. We will beat Brazil and Argentina in any case,” Prof Smith said laughingly.
Referring to the yellow and red penalty cards used in football, Prof Smith said: “We have to warn ourselves be warned not to become complacent after the World Cup babelas has ended on Monday not to fall back into old habits and only look after ourselves. We should try and build on social results of this in terms of working harder towards social cohesion.”
“Self interest must get a red card. We are not here for our own sake. What we should be trying to do is invest our time, energy, our efforts and abilities for future generations.”
Prof Smith also added a green card saying that the University will be going ahead with development, transferring knowledge and empowering communities – creating opportunities for access and success.
Executive mayor of Stellenbosch, alderman Cyril Jooste, thanked the University for this state-of-the-art soccer pitch. “By investing in a project like this you showed your commitment to the future of our.” He assured the University that it had the continued support from the municipality for the project.
Mr. Coby Greeff, head of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and Sport, echoed this sentiment: “This is a good example of the valuable role partnerships can play in establishing social cohesion in the province and making sure that our children are given an alternative to the issues which face our communities on everyday basis. Sport can indeed fulfil this role.”
More than simply a sporting initiative, the centre will also provide children with academic and life skills training through a partnership between the Stellenbosch University Sport Performance Institute (SUSPI) and a German social responsibility organisation, Stars of Tomorrow. This after school programme will see learners who are struggling academically paired with specialist teachers, coaches and graduate students as they receive extra tuition, specialised life skills training and soccer instruction.
“We want the Stellenbosch Soccer Centre to become not only a hub for football, but also for social development in the Western Cape,” Gugu Ntuli, CEO of SUSPI, commented earlier. “Whether its the after school programme, our academy for talented youth or our development initiative for girls and children with disabilities, we’re aiming to provide a holistic soccer experience which also transcends sport and provides strong social and academic skills.”
Joseph Jacobs, chairman of the Local Football Association, said the centre is a symbol of hope for the Stellenbosch community. “Through this centre the University will help to develop players holistically, players who are leaders on and off the field.”
And, although the project’s roots will always remain in Stellenbosch, the University is currently looking to collaborate with existing African partner universities and professional football clubs to mirror the Lentelus model in other African countries. “We feel that the Youth Sport Initiative could provide a model for African universities, allowing them to be agents of change in their surrounding communities to make a tangible difference,” comments Smith. “Many children are condemned to a life of poverty and for us to break this cycle, its imperative that we develop their social, physical and academic abilities. What better way to do this than through the powerful, uniting medium of sport?”
Photo: Ms Jackie Wiese, Director of Maties Sport; Prof Julian Smith, Vice-Rector: Community Interaction and Personnel and Mr Cyril Jooste, Executive Mayor of Stellenbosch.
- For a video of the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-W1T_jUxBfI
- For photos of the event: www.flickr.com/photos/stellenboschuniversity/sets/72157624309752621
- For more information on the Centre or any of its initiatives, visit www.stellenbosch2010.com or call 021 808 9109.