11 July 2011
The 11th of July 2011 marks exactly one year since the end of the first Fifa World Cup on African soil. It was on that day that Spain rewrote the history books when they lifted the trophy for the first time after defeating The Netherlands 1-0 at a packed Soccer City in Johannesburg.
Marking the occasion on Sunday, South African Football Association (Safa) president Kirsten Nemathandani and his deputy, Danny Jordaan, handed a state-of the-art artificial foot ball pitch over to the community of Ekangala outside Bronkhortspruit.
It is one of 52 artificial pitches that world football body Fifa promised to help South Africa build as a World Cup legacy project. Six of the turfs have been completed to date – in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape, Upington in the Northern Cape, and in North West and the Eastern Cape – with two more under construction.
The project involves the construction of community football centres around specialised turf fields and aims to give marginalised communities access to quality, Fifa-certified turfs while building the centres into meaningful hubs of social development.
Speaking at the event, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale said: “Before the World Cup we were doubted by everyone, but we managed to pull of one of the most successful and talked about tournaments in Fifa’s history.
“We made a promise before the World Cup that we wanted the event to leave a legacy, and the beautiful pitch you see today is a result of all that,” Sexwale said. “We cannot have the Radebes, the Pienaars, the Khunes and the Jalis without development, and the new pitch you see here and around the country speaks to that.”
Nemathandani said the facilities would go a long way towards enabling grassroots development of football in the area.
The facilities, which are made possible by the partnership between Safa and the National Lotteries Distribution Fund, allow youngsters in poor areas to develop their soccer skills in a professional environment.
The benefits of the high-tech artificial turfs are greater resistance to climatic conditions, low maintenance costs, longer playing hours, multi-usage for sport and cultural events, improved and consistent conditions, and a hub for football and community development.
Nemathandani said the World Cup may have come and gone, but the legacy of the tournament is set to continue in many of South Africa’s most disadvantaged communities.
Jordaan urged the locals to ensure that the infrastructure did not turn into a white elephant. “We want to urge the people here to own this and treat with the care it deserves. We don’t want to come back here and see it vandalised, it’s for football developmentm, and that’s what we want to see.”
SAinfo reporter and BuaNews