Determined to retain their hard-earned trophy, last year’s national champions from Khayelitsha are ready to take on all-comers as children from across South Africa prepare for the outdoor fun, competition and gees of the 2013 KIA Street Soccer League in May. 2012 Runners up, Port Elizabeth, will be looking to become this year’s national champions and also stand a chance of winning a trip of a lifetime to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
On Friday 10, May, Sporting Chance will roll out the annual national neighbourhood street soccer programme that will reach approximately 6000 boys and girls under the age of 13, empowering and exposing them to a brighter future through the valuable lessons of sport. The Cape Town sides will also interact with their favourite Ajax PSL players during the four month tournament, as they participate and assist with the programme.
A positive spin-off from the 2010 World Cup Ticket Fund legacy, the KIA Street Soccer programme is the largest of its kind, giving aspiring youngsters from Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Free State provinces a large dose of positive and healthy energy, which lingers long past the tournament’s final match. With last year’s inclusion of Welkom in the Free State, the programme is now closer to making street soccer available to all South African youth, whether urban or rural-based.
Conceptualised and co-ordinated by youth sports development agency Sporting Chance, the KIA Street Soccer programme, supported by FIFA and SAFA, teaches life skills through the game of soccer to children who need it most and where they need it most. The communities within the 40 participating regions are hampered by poverty and crime, and lack adequate and safe facilities and stimulating after-school and weekend activities.
“Sport can be such a powerful catalyst for upliftment,” said Brad Bing, Managing Director of Sporting Chance. “For three years, we’ve seen an incredible awakening in the kids who participate in the Programme, who often for the first time, realise that they have something of value to contribute and that they matter. As we get closer to the next FIFA World Cup in Brazil, I am sure that the kids on the street will be even more inspired and determined to play their best and in the process, make memories that will last a lifetime.”
KIA Street Soccer will hit neighbourhood streets with round robin matches in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage, Durban and Welkom. Eight hundred teams of six players each are entered into the regional league. Round robin matches are played for ten weeks, with weekly sessions followed by a week of regional finals. Provincial finals will then be held during August, and the National Championship final will take place in Johannesburg in mid September.
Last year’s KIA Street Soccer programme held its first National Championship in Johannesburg, and the excitement leading up to the crowning of the nation’s best team was sensational, says Bing. “Not only was it a thrilling opportunity for the youth who made it to the finals to experience camaraderie on a national level and the excitement of a championship final, but for many of them, it was their first opportunity to travel to see more of their country, and to make new friends along the way.”
Participants in the KIA Street Soccer programme are taking what they’ve learnt on the streets to soccer leagues across South Africa. Says Khotsi Mcondobi, outgoing Coordinator for the New Brighton region in Port Elizabeth: “we are promoting healthy, brilliant, sharp and skilful players to our under-15 division. With the moves they’ve learnt on the street soccer pitch, like Samba, Show Me Your No, Mjike Jou and Tsamaya, they are not afraid to take on opponents in one-on-one situations. With these skills, together with parents who support them by coming to watch their kids play, these players are really going places.”
Being healthy and keeping active are additional critical life skills taught by the KIA Street Soccer programme and fill the gap currently experienced, due to the shortage of access to physical education in the national schools’ curriculum. For the first and second phase of the programme, a Health Education and coaches training Road Show visits all the participating communities leading up to the third phase – the start of the league. In addition to activities designed to show and share the importance of physical activity, nutrition, personal hygiene and TB awareness, the sessions also cover key issues of sports etiquette, conflict resolution, road safety and environmental awareness, encouraging learners to take pride in their environment and recycle, not litter. In each participating province, the Departments of Health provide invaluable support for the educational road shows.
“It isn’t only the kids who will benefit from the KIA Street Soccer programme,” says Bing. “Local coaches and co-ordinators were selected from each community and will receive training in coaching and crucial life skills. In addition, a team of 840 is employed on a contractual basis throughout the duration of the KIA Street Soccer programme. A national project of this scale requires a solid team on the ground to run and implement it and we’re extremely grateful to be in the position where we can create employment opportunities for so many members of the communities where the programme takes place.”
“Promise of a better life through sport, is the legacy of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and it lives on in the hearts, minds and spirits of our most disadvantaged youth,” said KIA Motors South Africa CEO Ray Levin. “Through this beautiful game, they are realising that with hard work and clean living, dreams can come true. For the 6000 kids who compete in the KIA Street Soccer programme, this is just the beginning!”