South Africa

UNICEF organizes visit by football legend Diego Maradona to school in South Africa

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© UNICEF South Africa/Hearfield
Diego Maradona gives a quick lesson in football juggling during his visit.

SOWETO, South Africa, 28 January 2010 – On a rain-drenched afternoon, the football legend and head coach of Argentina's national team, Diego Maradona, took time out from his whirlwind visit to South Africa to visit the Selelekela Secondary School in Soweto, where he hosted a UNICEF-organized soccer clinic.

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After distributing sports equipment and football kits, Mr. Maradona joined a large group of enthusiastic children to show off some of his famous ball-juggling antics. With an audience of volunteer coaches, education officials and community members, students from the school's combined sports teams responded by demonstrating their own athletic skills.

"I am very happy to be here in South Africa. I thank UNICEF for inviting me to this school and for the opportunity to meet the children here," said Mr. Maradona.

"He is my role model because I like soccer. I like the way he plays," said one of the many young fans who stayed after school to see Mr. Maradona and get an autograph.

'A great start for our school'

Selelekela Secondary School Principal F. Lepshe welcomed Mr. Maradona's delegation, which included Argentina's Ambassador to South Africa, Carlos Sersale di Cerisano.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF South Africa/Hearfield
Argentina's Ambassador to South Africa, Carlos Sersale di Cerisano (left), greets UNICEF Representative in South Africa Aida Girma and the Principal of Selelekela Secondary School, F. Lepshe.

"Twenty-ten is off to a great start for our school," said Ms. Lepshe. 

UNICEF Representative in South Africa Aida Girma emphasized the relationship between football and education.

"We thank Mr. Maradona and the Argentine Football Federation [for] their support of our Sport for Development programme in schools.  UNICEF recognizes the critical role that sport, and especially football, plays in improving the lives of children – not only in their health and physical development but also in their social and cognitive well-being," said Ms. Girma.

Ongoing education efforts

In South Africa, school-based violence, HIV/AIDS, poor or inadequate infrastructure and the lack of recreational facilities, especially in rural and semi-urban areas, have emerged as major challenges to education.

Sports activities at Selelekela Secondary School are part of ongoing efforts by South Africa's Department of Basic Education, UNICEF and community development partners, using the power of sport to help children and young people build confidence and develop life skills. The goal of these efforts is to reduce engagement in risky behaviour that can lead to HIV infection. 

The Sport for Development programme here is a component of UNICEF's Child Friendly Schools Initiative. It reaches some 250,000 children in over 136 communities.


 

 

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January 2010: UNICEF correspondent Greg Marinovich reports on soccer legend Diego Maradona's visit to Selelekela Secondary School in Soweto, South Africa.
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