2 October 2008
London-based Arsenal Football Club is establishing its footprint in SADC (Southern African Development Community) region, by joining the University of Johannesburg (UJ) as official partner of the university’s Grupo Desportivo de Manica (GDM) project in Mozambique.
As one of the university’s flagship community engagement projects, GDM uses soccer as a means to develop and grow an extremely rural community in Manica, Mozambique. The project is largely funded by the Laureus Foundation and Barclays, as well as the UJ’s Alumni.
Recent project achievements include the renovation the town’s sport clubhouse and the building of a new facility that will be the core of an innovative SADC Research Centre that will house amongst other things a computer school, an internet cafe, an English school and accommodation quarters.
The project also supports the local football team, Desportivo de Mancia.
GDM founder and president Schalk van Heerden, who is also UJ project manager for the project, said that following the success of a six-week training exchange by two Arsenal community coaches in July 2008, representatives from UJ and GDM formalised their relationship with the famous football club during a visit to London on 19 September 2008.
“This partnership will deliver volunteer exchanges, Arsenal Gap Year participants, coaching seminars and research interventions,” said Van Heerden in a statement this week.
“This is very exciting for us. We will try to maximise our success in Manica and take the lessons learned forward as the relationship grows.”
UJ Pro-Vice Chancellor Derek van der Merwe said he was delighted with the Arsenal relationship, which will start in Mozambique and later expand to Soweto.
“We hope that this tie-up between one of the world’s great football clubs, the University of Johannesburg and GDM will eventually impact on the wider SADC region,” said Van der Merwe.
Arsenal in the Community head Alan Sefton echoeed that optimism: “To be successful in Africa, we need strong local partners that can deliver – GDM and the University of Johannesburg are obviously such partners.”
The GDM project has become an example of the power of sport to change lives, said Van Heerden, while GDM manager Shortcover Chikwandingwa added that the project would use football as the vehicle to deliver socio-economic benefits at grass-roots level.
“Six years into its existence, GDM has attracted long-term volunteers from South Africa, the USA and Germany, emphasising that there is ‘something special’ about this project,” Chikwandingwa said.
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