Dreams of inclusion in Bafana Bafana

Former soccer player and sports presenter Marks Maponyane. © Unknown.
Former soccer player and sports presenter Marks Maponyane. © Unknown.

Victor Mecoamere

Victor Mecoamere

A player discovered by a unique education through a sport initiative involving Sowetan, Reckitt Benckiser and Metcash can feature for Bafana Bafana in the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

This is possible, especially when we heed the words of mathematician and philosopher Albert Einstein, who once said: "There are two ways to live; you can live as if nothing is a miracle; [or] you can live as if everything is a miracle."

Instead of imagining and doing nothing about the vision of helping unearth South Africa's future soccer stars, Reckitt Benckiser and Metcash heeded the words of another strategist Jim Rohn, who once said: "The miracle of the seed and the soil is not available by affirmation; [but] it is only available by labour."

Reckitt Benckiser and Metcash then acted on their vision, and conceived this initiative, known as Shona Khona, in December 2005. Sowetan joined the programme last year as media sponsor, and sees Shona Khona as a suitable addition to the youth and community development activities of the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation.

Shona Khona, aimed at exposing children between the ages of 10 and 16 to soccer and life-skills coaching, is one of several other youth education and development projects and programmes, but the format employed is unique.

Children buy specially marked Reckitt Benckiser products at Metcash stores and Metcash-friendly stores and on these products are telephone numbers to which aspirants can send their names and other details via SMS.

A draw is held and about 180 children from all nine provinces are invited to special soccer coaching and life-skills camps where they are coached and mentored by experts.

These camps are held at the Safa-Transnet Soccer School of Excellence at Elandsfontein in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng - one in December and the other in July. Each camp caters for up to 90 children.

Over the years these mentors have included soccer greats Marks Maponyane, Dan "Dance" Malesela, Bernard Lushozi, James "Akulalwa" Mabena, together with Mandla Mazibuko and Stan Whiting, who are also administrators.

Twelve children, six from each camp in December and May, are selected by the coaches for further soccer coaching and life-skills training, this time in Brazil at the highly-respected Sao Paulo Futebol Club's Academy, in July.

After July this year, 36 youths would have had a chance to rub shoulders with their Brazilian peers.

Last year two aspirants - Tyroane Sandows and Thabiso Makena - impressed the Brazilians and were invited back to Sao Paulo.

Tyroane Sandows was invited back for a year-long development programme and Thabiso Makena was invited back for a two-month training programme. Makena is now back home, wiser and possessing a winner's potential. For Sandows, seemingly not even the sky is the limit.

Additionally, five talented Shona Khona recruits have been enrolled at the Safa-Transnet Soccer School of Excellence. Several others have had trials with soccer academies across the country.

Notably, another Shona Khona product, Sifiso Mnguni, has been admitted to Premier Soccer League side Silver Stars, and is featuring in their under-19 squad.