Earthwork began on Africa's very first Football for Hope centre on 18 May, focusing attention on the Cape Town suburb of Khayelitsha and its two million inhabitants. That was just the start, of course, and the centre will officially be operational by the end of November, with more centres destined to follow suit shortly afterwards.
Khayelitsha is set to be the pioneer for a total of 20 centres across the continent, all part of the '20 Centres for 2010' official campaign of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
"The City of Cape Town is delighted that the Football for Hope Centre will form part of Cape Town's regeneration programme for Khayelitsha, which includes the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading programme," explained the Mayor of Cape Town, Dan Plato, in May. Since then, work has advanced at a formidable pace.
The construction effort itself ought to be completed during the first week of November, with activities then able to start towards the end of the same month. The centre will address the problem of HIV/AIDS in the community and will serve as a platform to improve education and health levels among young people, in addition to boasting an artificial football pitch. The Khayelitsha centre will be run on behalf of Football for Hope by Grassroot Soccer, a non-profit organisation with a strong track record of HIV/AIDS prevention in the Western Cape.
The area on which the centre is being built is loaded with memories for local residents, and not necessarily good ones. Formerly an abandoned marshland, it was also the most dangerous part of the township. "Until now it was considered as a crime spot, but now it's going to be seen as a place of activity that people will be able to benefit from," explained the chairperson of the Khayelitsha Development Forum, Zamayedwa Sogayise, who along with many others did much to ensure the centre was built in precisely that location.
"Everyone here was delighted when we heard that the centre would be built here," added Gladys Zoleka Masiza, a local inhabitant. "Now our children will have somewhere to play. Sometimes our youngsters fall into delinquency and theft. Now they realise things are changing; there's a light now and everyone can see them. They can no longer get away with doing whatever."
On 5 December, the centre will undergo a symbolic unveiling in the presence of FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, former players and celebrities. Khayelitsha remains just the starting point, however, with a second ceremonial laying of a foundation stone held in Mali at the end of September and work due to begin in December. The centres in Namibia and Kenya are in the starting blocks too as the '20 Centres for 2010' campaign continues towards a successful conclusion that will leave a legacy in Africa long after the last ball has been kicked next summer.