Heads up, South Africa! Two years after the FIFA World Cup, soccer is still alive and kicking on the streets around the country, as the annual Kia Street Soccer league launches in May. 800 teams vie for the national title.
This year, for the first time, provincial winners from each region will be flown to Johannesburg to compete for the title of National Street Soccer Champion, in a grand display of how all roads lead to soccer success.
On Monday 21 May, Sporting Chance, in association with title sponsor KIA and associate sponsors Foodzone, Dawn Wing, Mille and Supersport Let’s Play, will roll out the national neighbourhood street soccer programme that will reach approximately 6000 boys and girls under the age of 13, empowering and exposing them to a brighter future through the valuable lessons of sport.
Already well established in Gauteng, Western Cape, KZN and Eastern Cape, the KIA Street Soccer programme is the largest of its kind. Its great success last year has propelled it into a new province in 2012, with incorporation of the Free State. With many rural communities keen to participate in the programme, the inclusion of the Free State is a big step towards making street soccer available to all South African youth, whether urban or rural-based.
Conceptualised and co-ordinated by youth sports development agency Sporting Chance, the Kia Street Soccer Programme, supported by FIFA and SAFA, teaches life skills through the game of soccer, to kids who need it most, where they need it most. Their communities in the 40 regions are hindered by poverty and crime, and lack in adequate and safe facilities or stimulating after-school and weekend activities.
“It has long been our dream to hold a national championship final,” said Brad Bing, Managing Director of Sporting Chance. “Bringing teams together from all the participating regions to play for one trophy, symbolising South Africa’s best, gives the Kia Street Soccer Programme a huge profile boost with greater national presence. Furthermore, it’s a thrilling opportunity for the youth who make it to the finals to experience camaraderie on a national level and the excitement of a national championship final, as well as to see more of their country. It will no doubt be a high point in their young lives – and we hope the first of many.”
Kia Street Soccer will hit neighbourhood streets with round robin matches in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Welkom. Eight hundred teams of six players each are entered into the regional league. Round robin matches are played for ten weeks, with weekly sessions followed by a week of regional finals. Provincial finals will then be held during the last week of August, and the National Championship final will take place in Johannesburg in early September.
“Soccer captivates young people everywhere, from the inner city to the platteland, and has so much to offer in the way of life lessons,” added Bing. “The streets in every region must be played on and make the perfect venue for kids to come together and do something positive and healthy. Rural youth often suffer the most, and with the generous support we receive from our sponsors, we will spread the fun and excitement of Kia Street Soccer to many more rural areas.”
This is also the year that the journey of FIFA’s 2010 Legacy Trust in South Africa becomes operational. With the Trust now fully in place, it will move from envisioning to implementation, and will support a wide range of public initiatives in the areas of football development, education, health and humanitarian activity, using the game of soccer as a tool. SAFA was given R40 million for football development projects, and a further R70 million for investment in a transportation fleet to support their teams.
“Our participation in the 2010 FIFA World Cup made all South Africans winners, and the long-term outlook for exciting relevant programmes benefitting our future stars has never been better,” says Sporting Chance’s Bing.
Being healthy and keeping active are additional critical life skills taught by the Kia Street Soccer programme and felt to be necessary due to the current absence of these subjects in the national schools’ curriculum. For the first phase of the programme, a Health Education Road Show visited all the participating communities leading up to the second phase – the start of the league. In addition to activities designed to show and share the importance of physical activity, nutrition, personal hygiene and TB awareness, the sessions also covered key issues of sports etiquette, conflict resolution, and environmental awareness, encouraging learners to take pride in their environment and recycle, not litter. In each participating province the Departments of Health provide invaluable support for the educational road shows.
It isn’t only the kids who will benefit from the Kia Street Soccer programme, says Bing. Local coaches and co-ordinators were selected from each community and will receive training in coaching and crucial life skills. In addition, a team of 840 are employed on a contractual basis throughout the duration of the Kia Street Soccer programme. “A national project of this scale requires a solid team on the ground to run and implement it and we’re extremely grateful to be in the position where we can create employment opportunities for so many members of the communities where the programme takes place,” adds Bing.
“Promise of a better life through sport, is the legacy of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and it lives on in the hearts, minds and spirits of our most disadvantaged youth,” said Kia Motors South Africa CEO Ray Levin. “Through this beautiful game, they are realising that with hard work and clean living, dreams can come true. For the 6000 kids who compete in the Kia Street Soccer Programme, this is just the beginning!”
For more information contact Bradlyn Stuurman at Sporting Chance on 021 683 7299, log onto www.sportingchance.co.za, or join facebook.com/sportingchance for regular updates.