• Eastern Cape Rising Sun

Rehabilitating the province through sport in the village

Girls from Zibuzele (yellow tops) and Mthawelanga primary school (green tops) compete in their fourth ever game of netball eQokolweni village.

A netball and soccer project is currently being piloted in Qokolweni village in Mqanduli by Dr Simthandile Toni, national soccer team doctor for the u20/21. Dr Toni, a sports fanatic, is passionate about the early childhood development of sports stars, especially from his home village.

“Many children have and are missing the opportunity to be exposed to sports, especially in rural villages of our province.

This project is an effort to catch up with the young talents while they are still in foundation phase so they can grow up knowing the importance of sports and develop an interest. We also facilitate life skills and many factors pertaining to child and youth development,” explained Dr Toni.

 The project addresses the ever-growing problem of drug use and gangsterism that emanates from children having too much leisure time after school. “We will rehabilitate them through sports”.

Children from eight schools have been receiving training from officials and they compete in a structured league every week among themselves. This is Dr Toni’s vision, to see village children gaining access and exposure to sport, excelling and competing with other schools in the province.

“Children are being taught sport from scratch and we are discovering that they have raw talent.

What is really wonderful to see is how much fun they are having. They are running around with naked ribs and bare feet having the time of their lives,” enthused Toni.

He has forged tight relations with the King Sabata Dalindyebo’s South African Football Association division and Netball SA in order to have access to professional referees that are teaching the children the rules of the game in order to sharpen their knowledge and ability to play the sports. He also has an on the ground sports management team who give lessons where there is no infrastructure that currently exists, except the fields and willing hearts. His long-term goal is to open a Sports Academy that will service the whole province.

“Sport is a viable option to academic success because not every child is wired the same way, they all have different strengths. The chosen schools currently have no after school programmes,” said Dr Toni.

The Pilot programme will run for the next two to three years and currently has no funding.

A tournament final will be hosted before the end of the year and Dr Toni’s team will present a report on what the schools will need in order to make this a permanent programme.

Participating primary schools are Ngcwala, Qokolweni, Mthawelanga, Zibuzele, Sangoni, Tyumbu, Vul’inkundla, and Velalanga.

The have been divided into two clusters to allow them to comp A & B matches, kids are happy, soccer were so many goals, netball it was tough in the beginning, 4th game skills improving.

The games have also provided a much-needed economic boost for local vendors who set vetkoeks, drinks and snacks at break time. Parents, teachers and local come in numbers to watch the weekly games that have taken the format of a sports festival in this quite village.

Boys from Zibuzele (blue jersey) and Qokolweni primary school are familiarised with the rules of soccer before the start of their encounter.


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