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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Footballer turned philanthropist gives back to community

Mosibodi Whitehead

One of the most serious challenges in delivering sporting opportunities to all South African children of school going age is the lack of facilities. This is especially so in the townships and rural areas.

It’s a problem that has plagued post-Apartheid South Africa since 1994 and there seems to be no end in sight.

In 2014 Antoinette Muller wrote in the Daily Maverick: “Facilities are a massive problem across both primary and secondary school level. Rugby has over 1,300 primary schools in jurisdiction participating, while cricket has just over 1,500. Playing facilities available to those schools are badly lacking, though. Rugby has just 813 while cricket has 905.”

The data was taken from the Eminent Persons group report which measures the extent to which different South African sporting codes meet their transformation targets paints a bleak picture.

And while there has been improvement in the number of primary schools playing both cricket and rugby in the last four years, the facilities challenge remains. Be it cricket, rugby, netball, tennis or lawn bowls the challenge remains the same; how to provide township and rural school children with access to well-maintained sporting facilities? Particularly when one considers that there are over 25 000 schools in the country.

The solution comes from an unlikely source.

A footballer turned philanthropist who has chosen to use his profile to plough back into his rural community.  In a country where soccer players are infamous for squandering their riches to return to their communities as paupers, SuperSport United’s Aubrey Modiba is different.

Modiba rose to prominence as one of the success stories of the Nedbank ke Yona team search. The Ke Yona Team Search which started in 2013, is a nationwide talent search programme that has seen over 25 previously unknown players secure professional contracts.

The coaches scour all corners of South Africa searching for hopefuls and one of those was Modiba. After getting his opportunity, The Postman (they call him the postman because his passes are always delivered on time like the snail mail of years gone by) then played for Mpumalanga Black Aces, SuperSport United and Bafana Bafana.

He also continued his relationship with Nedbank and earlier this year he teamed up with the bank to build a multi-million rand multi-purpose sports facility in his rural home town of Mentz Matshelapata, just outside Polokwane, Limpopo.

But more importantly, this facility is to be used by his former primary school, Makgefola. The new R1,2 million multipurpose sports which is funded primarily by The Nedbank Sport Affinity accommodates several different sporting codes including football, basketball, netball, volleyball, cricket, scouts and indigenous games.

“I hope learners in my former school will utilise this facility to their own advantage and help them to achieve their goals. I’m not saying they should all be soccer players, but they can also partake in other sports,” said The Postman.

Makgafola will share the facility with its neighbouring schools and communities for tournaments, competitions, events, wellness days and sports-related activities. This public-private partnership then, provides an example of how the stubborn challenge of lack of sporting facilities in South African schools can be addressed.

Minister of Sport and Recreation Tokozile Xasa graced the opening of the multi-purpose sports court heaping praise on Nedbank for answering government’s battle cry for business to bear arms in the battle to provide access to sporting facilities.

“We 100% affirm this initiative by the private sector and we can only hope that all of them can come to the party and alleviate the plight of lack of sport facilities within our communities,” said Xasa.

Although the success of the facility can only be determined by how well Makgafola, the neighbouring schools and the surrounding community use and maintain it, the model is one which has potential for success because can be duplicated.

Corporates can adopt a school, build or refurbish a derelict facility and that school can then become the nucleus around which a thriving community of school sport can grow.

In difficult economic times where national government has competing priorities including providing quality education and healthcare, the provision of sporting facilities understandably falls very low on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s to-do list.

It’s a Herculean task which cannot be accomplished without willing partners. So in order for South Africa to unearth sporting talent from Grabouw to Ga-Mphahlele and Upington to Umlazi partners such as Nedbank that are willing and able to invest in school sport are priceless.

Whitehead is a sports writer and broadcaster.

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