First Football Turfs kick off

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rustenburg - The days of having to travel long distances to access decent sports facilities will soon be a thing of the past for the tiny township of Mogwase, outside Rustenburg.

This follows the historic launch of what is believed to be South Africa's biggest grassroots football development programme, the first of many Football Turfs of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The project forms part of the World Cup Organising Committee legacy projects and involves the construction of artificial pitches and state of the art development centres in poor communities countrywide.

The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund has pledged more than R170 million for the construction of these artificial pitches - initially in 27 regions for the next three years, to give prospective soccer players an opportunity to develop their football skills in a decent football surface with modern day facilities.

FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke, who officiated at the sod-turning ceremony at Holy Family Combined School where the project will be situated, said leaving a lasting legacy after the World Cup, is the only way South Africans could feel the benefits of hosting one of the most prestigious sporting events.

"After the last game has been played as FIFA we don't want to say thank you South Africa you have been a good host, good-bye. We want to make sure we can give to each African country an assurance that in the future there will be football leagues and football academies," Valcke said.

More than 1 000 youngsters from Mogwase, who braved the baking sun, to witness the launch at school, will be the first to benefit from the project.

Valcke said it was his view that African football can not develop if the issue of the necessary infrastructure that enabled learners to progress was not addressed.

"You cannot play good football if you don't have a good pitch, you need good infrastructure and that's what we are working on. We need the support of our national association...we need the support of the government to achieve this," he said.

The Football Turfs, will not only focus on football related events as the name suggests but projects aim at giving rural communities access to quality sporting infrastructure while at same time building the centres into meaningful hubs of social development.

"We have to make sure that we are working on the legacy and we are committed to South Africa and Africa beyond 2010 and for all the future," said Valcke who has consistently defended South Africa's readiness for the tournament amid foreign media hostility.

LOC CEO Danny Jordaan said the success of first African World Cup should not be judged only on the numbers of people who will be visiting South Africa but also the extent to which the tournament manages to change and touch the lives of ordinary people.

"We have worked long and hard to bring this event to our country and the people of South Africa and this continent have supported throughout and we have to make sure that they benefit from it," said Jordaan.

The LOC is moving around the country to identify sites where pitches and centres could set up, while at the same time drumming up support for the national team Bafana Bafana.

"It is very important for us that the entire nation is behind this event at all levels," Jordaan said.

Work on the project at Mogwase to cost about R6 million is expected to begin immediately.