13 June 2014
Nine young South Africans jetted off to Brazil on Thursday night to attend one of the matches at the 2014 Fifa World Cup, courtesy of South African Airways (SAA).
The nine youngsters, each representing one of South Africa’s nine provinces, will be in the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba on Monday – South Africa’s Youth Day – to witness the Group F clash between Iran and Nigeria.
The group of “born-frees” – people born in or after South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994 – were selected from a “Freedom Flyers” competition on radio station Metro FM in which they had to leave a creative message in the format of a pilot’s in-flight welcome announcement, motivating why they deserved a seat on the flight to Brazil.
“This initiative is in line with South Africa’’s 20 years of democracy and SAA’s 80th anniversary,” SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said in a statement on Friday.
“Before 1994, the youth played a pivotal role in changing the history of South Africa, and today we are part of the global community. This trip will give the lucky winners a glimpse of what democracy has heralded: taking Africa to the world. It is for this reason that they are referred to as Freedom Flyers.”
Tlali said the youngsters were travelling to Brazil as “ambassadors of democracy”, adding that the trip would contribute towards their growth as future leaders “who will become the voices of change, contribute towards the betterment of their communities, and share their experiences from what they learned in Brazil”.
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, speaking at a send-off event in Kempton Park, east of Johannesburg on Thursday, said: “It is not a moment of adventure, but it is exposure to the world to help these Freedom Flyers have a broader perspective on life.”
Eighteen-year-old Phemelo Pooe from North West province, who is completing her four matric subjects and living with her single mom, said she was excited to be part of the trip. “It almost seemed impossible that one day I would be boarding an aeroplane to an international destination. I am grateful for this opportunity,” Pooe said.
Pooe’s eight travelling companions are: Winnie Skhosana (Gauteng province), Matshediso Mohono (Limpopo), Ayanda Manoka (Mpumalanga), Njabulo Shange (KwaZulu-Natal), Buyelwa Xundu (Western Cape), Zandisile Nimbama (Eastern Cape), Ursula Moalahi (Northern Cape), and Lebogang Mosime (Free State).
Mango, SA Express and Airlink supported the initiative by flying the winners from their respective provinces to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, and will return them from there back home on their return to the country on 18 June.