Soccer 'passport to fame'
Stanley "Screamer" Tshabalala, the head development officer of the South African Football Association, yesterday appealed to youngsters from the townships to steer clear of alcohol and drugs and to concentrate on soccer and education.
Tshabalala was speaking during the launch of the Orient Soccer Challenge held at the Orient Cash and Carry Hypermarket in Kliptown.
He said in his day there were no opportunities to play the game like the children of today have. Tshabalala also commended the sponsors for assisting youngsters from disadvantaged communities.
"Soccer is a passport to fame and most children from the township play the game with passion. We thank the sponsors for taking these kids away from the street and from drinking alcohol and from taking drugs," he said.
"We're delighted with the sponsors for their undying support of the game and we hope that Safa Soweto and Cash and Carry's relationship will grow from strength to strength."
Dowray Harduth, the director of Orient, said when they were approached, they thought that the competition would not grow, but now that it is in its fifth year, they hope to increase the sponsorship and add more incentives for the players next year.
"We've got a number of incentives we're working on and soon we'll make them known."
The competition that started in 2002 has unearthed talent from across the region.
Players like Simphiwe Tshabalala, who is now playing for Kaizer Chiefs; Thulani Hlatshwayo, who joined Ajax Cape Town; and Irvin Mhlambi and Godfrey Mokoena, who are both at Benoni Premier United, were all spotted in this competition.
It is played in different divisions - the Under-13s, 17s, 20s and seniors.
This year's tournament, which runs for three months, is sponsored for R250000.