Ithemba (hope) and philisa (healing) are painted on the side of a community building that forms part of the newly opened Ncomu Road Urban Park, in the Harare suburb of Khayelitsha, Cape Town. The Xhosa words embody important ideals for locals, who carry with them the scars of life in one of South Africa's biggest and poorest townships.
On 25 May, in the shadow of those words, the official ground-breaking ceremony for the first Football for Hope centre in Africa took place. The '20 Centres for 2010' project, a partnership venture between FIFA and streetfootballworld, aims to build 20 Football for Hope centres across Africa as part of the official social responsibility campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
The community centres will serve as a platform for improving education and health services for children, and will provide facilities to help disadvantaged communities confront many of the social challenges plaguing them. The Khayelitsha Centre will be managed on behalf of Football for Hope by Grassroot Soccer, a dynamic local non-profit organisation with a strong track record of HIV-Aids education in the Western Cape.
The area on which the first Football for Hope Centre will be built carries a painful history for local residents. What was previously an abandoned marshland and one of Khayelitsha's most dangerous areas has, today, been reclaimed through the combined efforts from residents, community leaders and government. "It shows what we can do when we focus on getting things right rather than concentrating on what's wrong," said Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape, as she addressed the crowd.
Time for change
As one of South Africa's largest slums, and home to about two million people, Khayelitsha is faced with many challenges of which poverty, and access to clean running water and electricity, are just a few. Talk to some of the area's inhabitants, however, and often what is most evident is a sense of hope, and an eagerness for a better life.
One young man, who graduated from nearby Kwamfundo High School and had spent most of his childhood in the area, was optimistic about the community centre's future. In his opinion, drugs were the biggest problem in the area and the centre, in his view, carried with it the hope that kids in the community would be safer from the fast and easy slide into crime that they caused.
Addressing the media, Danny Jordaan, CEO of the Local Organising Committee for South Africa 2010, hailed the initiative and emphasised that the centre will be a cornerstone for helping change lives in Khayelitsha and its surrounding areas. He went on to acknowledge that while the Green Point Stadium was miles, and in truth an entire social reality, away from the dusty streets of Khayelitsha, he saw the centre as an opportunity to galvanise local youth to building a brighter future for themselves. "We cannot bring the stadium to Khayelitsha, but we can bring the players to that stadium."
Federico Addiechi, head of Corporate Social Responsibility for FIFA, reiterated FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter's commitment. "We aim to leave a legacy in Africa for Africa that will last long after the final whistle of the 2010 FIFA World Cup blows," he said.
As the crowd dispersed, some residents walked back to their homes carrying bright blue bags baring the FIFA logo, inside of which were the contents of day's press kits. The media information inside may not be of great use to the average Khayelitsha resident, but those who took it had made a subtle, symbolic gesture: of wanting to take part of what happened here today home with them and to embrace a little tighter FIFA's commitments in Africa.