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Fun and football for Soweto children as Argentina’s head coach Diego Maradona visits a UNICEF-supported school

UNICEF/South Africa/2010/Hearfield
© A quick lesson in football juggling from the head coach and football champion during his School visit.

Soweto, South Africa... On a rain drenched afternoon in Soweto, Argentina’s head coach and football legend Diego Maradona, took time out from his whirlwind visit to South Africa to stop by the Selelekela Secondary School in Soweto to host a mini clinic and donate gifts to delighted children in a fun and football treat organised by UNICEF.

After handing out gifs of  sports  equipment and  football kits, the world famous coach, who was visiting South Africa’s stadiums to review preparations for  his team’s stay during the upcoming World Cup,  joined a large group of enthusiastic children from the school’s combined sports teams to show off  some of his  famous head juggling and ball antics. 

The children also impressed him with their own special moves, under the watchful eyes of excited volunteer coaches, education officials and community members.

“Twenty ten is off to a great start for our school,” said Mrs. F.  Lepshe, Principal of the school, who welcomed Mr. Maradona’s delegation, which included Argentina’s Ambassador to South Africa, H E Mr. C Sersale di Cerisano.  

 “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 football fans, who remained behind after school to see Mr. Maradona and get an autograph.

UNICEF/South Africa/2010/Hearfield
© UNICEF/South Africa/2010/Hearfield
UNICEF South Africa Representative Aida Girma, welcomes Mr. Maradona's delegation to Selelekele Secondary School in Soweto, South Africa.

Drawing attention to the relationship between football and education, UNICEF South Africa Representative Aida Girma said, “We thank Mr.  Maradona and the Argentina Football Federation 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.”
  
In South Africa, school-based violence, HIV and AIDS, poor or inadequate infrastructure and the lack of recreational facilities especially in the rural and peri-urban areas have emerged as some of the major challenges to the education system. 

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

The Sport for Development programme is a component of UNICEF’s Child Friendly Schools initiative, and reaches some 250,000 children in over 136 school cluster communities.

Mr. Maradona’s visit, like Soweto’s legendary Orlando Stadium just next door to the school, aims to inspire a new generation of South Africans youngsters to become good citizens through engagement in sports. 

Download the press release [word] [pdf]

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