Tuesday 22 June 2010

Football – a Gift for Today and for Tomorrow

Issued on 22 June 2010

An Open Letter of Congratulations and Challenge from the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town

To the FIFA World Cup LOC and Dr. Danny Jordaan; Dr. Irvin Khoza and SAFA; and Mr. Kaizer 'Chincha Guluva' Motaung

Football – a Gift for Today and for Tomorrow

I have been watching a lot of football! During the World Cup I have been struck by the young children who have accompanied the players onto the fields. Regardless of the time of day, regardless of the weather, they were there, delighted as they held the hands of great players and listened to the melodious and sometimes off tune national anthems. It was easy to see that they were enthralled by the experience.

The 2010 World Cup has been filled with great moments and a generous spirit, which these young people have exemplified. The World Cup is possibly the greatest and biggest global sporting event (after the Olympics) that any country can host, and it is here in South Africa. We have seen the excitement that soccer generates crosses all boundaries. I am proud to be a South African!

Yet being on a ‘high’ has its downsides too. My thoughts turn to a familiar event in the life of Jesus – his Transfiguration on the mountain top in the presence of three of his disciples. It is recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. In all three accounts, after an amazing experience of Jesus’ appearing to be transformed with the shining glory of God, Jesus reminds his disciples that they must leave that ‘mountain top’ experience and return to the ‘plains’ – the real, everyday world of their lives.

In South Africa, we are in the midst of our own ‘mountain top’ experience as we welcome the world to our nation and our continent. But we too need to start planning to come down from the mountain and back to the ‘plains’ of our everyday lives.

Our ’plains’ are full of challenges – many that we know all too well – and perhaps some new ones too. We know of the challenges of education, service delivery, health care, violence and the upcoming municipal elections. My wish and prayer for all of these are that they will be marked by absolute fairness, though politics has unfortunately come to be associated with 'unfair play'. I also hope that rumours of a new outbreak of xenophobic violence after the tournament will be proved wrong, hopelessly wrong. We are one humanity and we must learn to coexist.

Yet there is one other aspect of our return to the plains, on which I would like to put the main focus of this letter. I want to return to the young boys and girls who walked with smiles and pride as they entered the stadia, and to the question of the new generation of South Africans, whom they represent.

My question for our football champions and leaders is this: where will the youngsters who accompanied the great players into our stadia learn to play their much-loved sport? Where can the money for football development academies be found? I believe it is out there. Can our local as well as international companies assist in the formation of academies which will nurture and train these future stars?

Perhaps such a programme can be seen as a tithe for carbon emissions caused by all our preparations for the World Cup, and by the travelling of all visitors we have so warmly invited to our shores. FIFA and the soccer fraternity need to ‘green’ more local stadia and to begin in 2010 a soccer development institute especially for our under-resourced townships and rural villages.

Such an undertaking will best honour those smiles on the little ones who walked with today’s great players, and it will be a sustainable and lasting memory for 2010 World Cup over and above the spending the country has expended on this sporting code.

As we anticipate and enjoy the next games, may we ponder on these things.

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