For many decades, sport has been used as a unifier in South Africa. Like, nothing else, it has shown it has the power to heal old wounds.
Many remember when the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup on home turf in 1995 during the height of racial tensions in South Africa. But when Nelson Mandela donned the No 6 shirt of the team’s captain – Francois Pienaar, a white Afrikaner – the gesture sent an image of racial reconciliation which melted hearts around the country.
It is this power of sport that has propelled the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) to sponsor the first annual June 16 soccer tournament played in Johannesburg recently.
The agency’s spokesperson Siyabonga Magadla said there are a number of benefits associated with youth participating in sports.
“Sports has a way of promoting social cohesion and positive thinking and behaviour among young people. It promotes healthy lifestyle and well-being. If we are to continue supporting and promoting youth participation in sports, it will go a long way in ensuring that young are prevented in engaging in social ills like drugs and substance abuse,” Magadla said.
This year, National Youth Day and Youth Month was celebrated under the theme “Youth moving South Africa forward”.
The theme was a call for action by a broad range of social partners who, in tandem with government, were urged to contribute to youth development in various sectors of society.
The NYDA said the youth of today face many challenges such as HIV and Aids, drug abuse and alcoholism.
More still needs to be done to ensure the personal development of young people so that they may attain economic freedom and contribute to the development of the country.
While government would continue to show its strongest hand in fighting youth challenges, young people of today are urged to see opportunities around them despite their challenges.
Magadla said: “We therefore have a responsibility as part of our youth development work to encourage youth participation in sports and education towards the development of young people”.
The inaugural June 16 Soccer Cup, aligned to the Youth Month activities, saw two schools chosen from Soweto as well as a team from the national broadcaster SABC, battling it out in the field of play for trophy, gold medals and prizes ranging from R3 000 to R6 000.
The event started with a motivational session where renowned SABC soccer analyst and life coach Christopher Bongo motivated the young players to follow their dreams in life.
Among other things, Bongo told the youngsters that playing soccer cannot be regarded as a career and urged them to stay at school so that after their playing days, they can be able to pursue various careers available in sports.
Organisers of the tournament, Proactive Communications said they are planning to rotate the annual event between Johannesburg and Tshwane with plans to take to the capital next year to allow local schools a chance to participate.
Lavela High School from Dobsonville were crowned champions of the tournament after beating the SABC team.
For its effort, the team was awarded a trophy and R6 000 to be used towards sports improvement.
Teacher Dan Makgale said he was happy that his team won. “This will serve as motivation for the kids to work hard in their studies as they have seen that anything is possible if you work hard in it,” Makgale said.
The SABC team were runners up and walked away with R3 000 and silver medals, while the other school Kwadeda Secondary got bronze medals and a R1 000 consolation prize.
Apart from the money donated by the NYDA, Supersport donated a number of soccer balls that were used on the day. – SAnews.gov.za