While sports minister Fikile Mbalula lambasted Bafana Bafana for their poor African Cup of Nations performance, township talent is having to hone itself on empty land next to the highway.
People playing soccer along road reserves and in open land between highway off ramps are not uncommon in South Africa.
In Cape Town 17 football clubs from Du Noon which play in South African Football Association (SAFA) leagues play on open land next to the N7 and the Potsdam Road off ramp.
This is because the sports field they would normally use is a dumpsite. It also means they cannot host home games.
Recognising the problem, in 2009 the City started upgrading an alternative sports field next to Inkwenkwezi Secondary School in the township to cater for the local clubs.
The upgrades were being done in three phases but so far only phase 1 of three phases has been completed.
Phase 1 includes an informal cricket pitch, detention pond, subsurface drainage, netball and basketball courts, multi-use court, skate plaza, climbing wall, basketball and netball tree, said City Mayco member for community services and special projects, Belinda Walker.
Walker said phase 2 of the upgrades, in which the soccer field will be upgraded, will be completed by the end of May 2014, with an official launch by August.
Phase 3, which includes a clubhouse, change room facility, and a spray park for children are currently being constructed and is set to be completed at the end of June 2014.
Initially, the City had planned to complete phase 1 of the upgrades at the end of September 2012 while phase 2 and 3 was set to be completed by April and June 2013.
But Walker said a national strike in construction industry resulted in the project completion dates having to be adjusted. “This was further compounded by the inclement weather affecting activities on site.”
In the meantime, local football clubs say the ongoing prolonged upgrades is leading to skilled players giving up the sport.
Zolisile Seku, a founder of Du Noon Academy Football Club which plays in the South African Breweries (SAB) Regional League (previously Castle Regional League), said for any team to manage to play in a regional league was “a big achievement” and in Du Noon they’d done it without any facilities.
But the club was losing talented players as they moved to clubs elsewhere playing in the Vodacom league.
“This year alone we lost four players who migrated to Vodacom teams,” he said.
“For us it’s hard times. We are training in a small space. We can’t put goal posts in because the space is small. We only see goal posts on match day.”
He said while they practised next to the highway during the week, they had to play home fixtures at the Bayview sports field in Brooklyn.
Transport to Bayview cost each player R18 return taxi fare, he said.
“We can’t be travelling to play home games and away games…and we don’t have local fans to support us. This is proving to be trouble for us,” he said, adding “the City has been saying it is upgrading our sports field since 2009 but to date they are still upgrading.” — Peter Luhanga