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South Africa

South African children count down to FIFA World Cup 2010

© UNICEF South Africa/2010/Bloemen
At a UNICEF-supported sport-for-development festival, young people from a gymnastics club do the 'discy dance' that is spreading across South Africa in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup 2010.

By Shantha Bloemen

HUHUNDI, South Africa, 2 June 2010 – A group of young gymnasts bend their torsos to the beat of the music, clapping and spinning in unison. The ‘discy dance’ is a new national pastime in a country feverishly approaching the FIFA World Cup 2010, which kicks off here next week.

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Approximately 300 children have gathered for a day-long sporting festival at the stadium in the centre of Huhundi, a large township. The community of some 40,000 sits on the outskirts of Vryberg, a rural farming town in North West Province.

This township, like many others in South Africa, carries a legacy of apartheid. The black majority, which was segregated to the fringes of society in the past, still suffers from high levels of poverty.

© UNICEF South Africa/2010/Bloemen
Girls warm up for their football match at one of the UNICEF-supported sport-for-development festivals being held to coincide with the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa.

‘They are an inspiration’

Among the young people gathered for a series of football and netball tournaments in Huhundi is Ronald Rapelong, 15, who dreams of becoming a professional footballer. Ronald lost his parents a year ago and now lives with his aunt.

“I am very excited that so many of the big football stars will be in our country,” he says. “They are an inspiration to us.”

The Huhundi sport festival is one of 21 such events that have been taking place since May – and will continue through July – in some of the most remote and impoverished parts of South Africa.

As part of a sport-for-development programme organized by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF through four non-governmental organizations, the festivals give communities an opportunity to showcase their sporting talents and celebrate the World Cup in their own areas.

“The approach is to identify the communities most in need and then work both through the schools … as well as in the community,” says the programme’s coordinator in North West Province, Malanga Mposhi. The initiative aims to improve physical education in local schools and help address social issues facing young people generally.

© UNICEF South Africa/2010/Bloemen
Netball players for Moete Primary school in Huhundi Township, South Africa play a tournament as part of the local sport-for-development festival.

A healthy alternative

University student Barbara Sarachera, 22, is a mentor to many of the young girls in Huhundi. Now studying sports science in Mafeking, the provincial capital, she comes home every weekend to play, as well as coach, on a girls’ netball team.

For Ms. Sarachera, sport is an important way to keep children busy and out of trouble.

“There are plenty of kids here. Where would they be right now if it was not for this event?” she asks, referring to the township’s festival. “At home they are mischievous. For example, teenage pregnancy is very high right now especially in this community. They also drink alcohol and do drugs.

“So this is something to keep kids busy,” she adds. “And it get them active as they grow older and discover their talents.”

© UNICEF South Africa/2010/Bloemen
A South African boy blows the vuvezela, an air horn that is a symbol of the approaching FIFA World Cup 2010.

Success in sport and life
The soft-spoken local coordinator of the sport-for-development programme in Huhundi, Mohau Setlhodi, 22, kicks the football around with a group of teenagers waiting their turn at the tournament. As a volunteer for the last two years, he knows that sport can play an important role in teaching skills such as discipline, team-building and confidence.

At the end of the tournament, prizes are given out. The winners proudly come to collect their certificates and medals.

Most of these young people will watch the FIFA World Cup 2010 matches on television, but they are excited and proud to know that their heroes will be in South Africa for the biggest football event on the planet. This knowledge fuels their own ambition that, with more practice and time, they too can succeed – both on the football field and in life.




30 May 2010: UNICEF's Chris Gleenson reports from South Africa as anticipation builds towards the kick-off of the FIFA World Cup 2010.
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30 May 2010: Children from Huhundi Township talk about why sport plays such an important role in their lives and how they are inspired by the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa.
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