Pretoria - Youngsters from 16 South African schools will get the chance to play "international" football this weekend when they participate in the annual Group of Latin American and Caribbean (GRULAC) Football Tournament in Pretoria.
The 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa (OC) has teamed up with the 16 embassies that make up the GRULAC countries staging the tournament to host the event on Saturday.
The players, who are in the under-13 category, will play from 8.30am to 2.30pm at the Pretoria University of Technology Sports Grounds.
Each player will receive their kit on the day, which will be a replica of their adopted country's national jersey, as well as medals and certificates. The winners and runners up will walk away with exciting prizes.
Since 2000 the GRULAC countries, comprised of the South African embassies of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Dominican Republic and Venezuela, have adopted 16 local schools from disadvantaged areas in South Africa and assisted them in terms of academic, sporting and cultural exchange.
The annual GRULAC football tournament sees the local schools represent their so-called adopted countries which has become the highlight of the event.
This will be the ninth tournament since inception, with more than 4 000 children having participated. A total of 18 talented young players have been placed on football scholarships in GRULAC countries, including Bongani Khumalo, who is now playing for Supersport United and Bafana Bafana.
Over 700 South African children have been on football tours to various GRULAC countries over the years and coaching courses for South African teachers held in South Africa and abroad.
The tournament will be attended by 2010 FIFA World Cup ambassadors Doctor Khumalo, Phil Masinga and Kalusha Bwalya.
OC Chief executive Office, Dr Danny Jordaan, said the tournament was a good cause for the organisation to support.
"This tournament highlights the wonderful work being done by the countries from Latin America and the Caribbean in South Africa. It is an opportunity for young players to excel and learn more about not only football but also about cultures from these various countries."
The Deputy Dean of GRULAC and Ambassador of Argentina Dr Carlos Sersale di Cerisano, said GRULAC was grateful that the OC was supporting its efforts in contributing to South Africa's schools.
"The support and partnership of the 2010 Organising Committee is indicative of their commitment to not merely organising the football spectacle, but more importantly to use the FIFA World Cup to create and leave a legacy in South Africa, specifically for the youth," said di Cerisano.