PUPILS and residents of a poverty-stricken rural area of KwaZulu-Natalwere all smiles yesterday.

This after a R720000 state-of-the-art stadium was unveiled at Dukuduku in Mtubatuba.

The stadium constructed at Silethukukhanya High School was officially opened yesterday.

It boasts floodlights, a world-class irrigation system and taps.

Benefiting from a partnership between non-governmental organisations and the business and private sectors, it was constructed after the local inkosi, the school, non-governmental organisation Mpilonhle and Woolworths came together.

As if the world-class stadium was not enough, pupils and community leaders met, for the first time, icon and former Leeds United and Bafana Bafana captain Lucas Radebe.

Mpilonhle executive director Michael Bennish said they had been working with the community and pupils at different schools in the area, and realised that there were limited recreational facilities in the area.

He said after identifying the problem of HIV-Aids prevalence, they felt obliged to do something.

"We identified building a sporting facility as one of the best solutions to the problem," he said.

Bennish said after organisations such as the Charlize Theron Foundation, Oprah's Angels and Chelsea Football Club offered help, the dream of building the stadium was realised.

He said the stadium would go a long way in helping pupils to play soccer, even at night.

It will also benefit the community, which will now be able to start its own local football leagues and make use of the stadium.

Six more stadiums would be built soon.

Radebe urged pupils to study, saying they must not forget that education was the key to success.

"Sports or football in particular is a very short career because one can get injured and that is the end of the career.

"But with education, the sky is the limit. Study hard, be disciplined and work towards your goals. Let nothing stand in your way and be focused," he said.

He also warned pupils to be wary of fame, drug and alcohol abuse.

"I know people who were famous but fell very hard along the way because they had no basic moral background, and you must be careful and not fall into the same trap.

"Fame is very dangerous if it is not handled with care," he said.

Grade 8 pupil Thokozani Mtshali, 13, said: "I am so excited to see Radebe and hope to emulate him in future.

"He is a great role model and a disciplined, down-to-earth sportsman and my hero," he said.