• Shirona Patel, communications manager
University of the Witwatersrand
+27 11 717 1019
South Africa’s Johannesburg-based University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the Netherlands government have joined forces to create a World Cup legacy programme to develop social and football skills in the southern African region.
Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbalbond (KNVB), the Dutch football association, saw the need to revolutionise school-level football development in South Africa and decided to make Wits the home of the first World Coaches Academy in the country.
As part of conditions set for the Netherlands team to use the university as a training camp for its 2010 Fifa World Cup preparations, the team was required to present a legacy project that would run long after the tournament. The team formulated two projects. The first was to extend the World Coaches Academy to southern Africa, and the second the laying of a brand new astro pitch to develop Wits’ youth programme in Johannesburg’s inner-city area of Hillbrow.
“The Wits World Coaches Academy will see 1 000 coaches in the southern African region trained as life-skills mentors and coaches,” says Yunus Ballim, the Wits vice-chancellor in charge of academic affairs.
“The academy is a well-established programme in Holland and it seeks to improve the relationship between football and social development. The World Coaches programme launching at Wits has a new dimension and that is the life-skills element.”
The university has a proud tradition of football, and is home to the “Clever Boys”, the Bidvest Wits FC Premier Soccer League team.
Wits academics Ruksana Osman, Norman Duncan, Eric Worby and Demitri Constantinou have partnered with colleagues from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands to develop a curriculum for the life-skills component of the initiative.
Ballim will meet with the deputy vice-chancellors from the Universities of Zambia and Mozambique this week to get their institutions involved in the project.
“Our intention is to focus on soccer as social development rather than develop players who will play for premier leagues around the world,” Ballim says. “And that is why we are going to try and focus on teachers in rural and township schools who will become the coaches trained by the World Coaches programme.”
The primary aim is to see teachers going back to their schools to develop the lifeskills of their students. The skills taught will include how to deal with crime, poverty and social power relations, and how to take advantage of opportunities for learning.
“If we can reach 1 000 coaches in four years, I think we can make an enormous contribution,” Ballim says. Wits will be the academic coordinator and base for the training programme. There will, however, be delivery sites that will reach out to the 1 000 people throughout the southern African region.
KNVB have proposed to lay an astro pitch at Sturrock park stadium where the coaches from Wits will be trained and will also improve facilities where the lifeskills lectures will take place.
“Sturrock Park will become a soccer-knowledge precinct. In other words, it will be about the knowledge about soccer and also knowledge about the role of soccer in community development,” says Ballim.
The programme will also be used as a research, learning and teaching structure, and Ballim encourages Wits students to take part in the initiative.