Soccer fever is soaring to new highs in South Africa but many of the young people in our rural communities are wondering whether the excitement will ever include them. Wild About Soccer was launched in 2008 partly to make these children feel part of the World Cup excitement.
But more important, the aim was to use their love of soccer to further SANParks other more fundamental goals. South Africa’s national conservation body wants to use soccer to advance environmental education, social inclusiveness and improved community relations. Both SANParks and Dreamfields believe that all these goals can be met – and that valuable resources can be injected into needy communities at the same time.
The Dreamfields Project, in partnership with SANParks and supporting corporations and smaller businesses, last year staged five soccer tournaments. Four of them took place in communities close to the Kruger Park gates. And for the fifth tournament, all the winning schools spent a weekend inside the National Park learning about conservation – and then played a tournament in the Kruger Park camp, Skukuza.
Each tournament involved eight schools – four boys’ teams and four girls – each of which received a DreamBag. A DreamBag contains full sets of kit for 15 players – shirts, shorts and socks; boots, balls and shin pads. The long-term aim is to get these schools playing regular matches against each other in well-organised leagues.
Dreamfields has worked with SANParks to secure sponsorship for the DreamBags, each of which cost R6 000, and to build partnerships:
Wild About Soccer will continue to work in communities close to the Kruger National Park – we hope to stage four DreamEvents in this area. We also intend spreading the project to the Free State, the Northern Cape and the Limpopo Province.
Winning teams will once again earn themselves a trip to Skukuza and an opportunity to experience not just the magic of soccer, but the wonder of South Africa’s greatest national park.
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