The Katutura township, in the heart of Namibia’s capital of Windhoek, came alive on Saturday as locals gathered to witness the historical opening of the Katutura Football for Hope Centre by FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke and Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula.

Also in attendance was chairperson of Namibia Special Olympics, Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi and president of the Namibian Football Association (NFA), John Muinjo, amongst others. The Centre, to be hosted by the Namibian Special Olympics, has been named in honour of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, who was a leader in the worldwide struggle to improve and enhance the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Valcke said the opening of the centre was part of FIFA’s commitment to not only leaving a post-World Cup legacy for the continent, but help also to help Africa develop in different spheres. He thanked the local communities and the government for the partnership and commitment shown during building the centre. “I would like to thank the Prime Minister for being here and the support shown towards this project,” said Valcke. “For the last few years we have been fighting against some parts of the world because everyone was saying that the world Cup should not go to Africa, they said it was a mistake. At the end of the day it was a success and credit should go to the whole of Africa.”

“Football for hope is not just a slogan, it is part of FIFA. It’s a FIFA movement and it will be an umbrella over a number of projects in the future,” he continued. “We have to make sure that Africa does not only provide a pool of [football] talent, we have work together in developing Africa. It’s important to work in cooperation not only with Special Olympics but with local football Associations.”

Football for hope is not just a slogan, it is part of FIFA.

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke

The Katutura Football for Hope Centre is the third centre to be opened in Africa as part of the “20 Centres for 2010” campaign initiated by FIFA as part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ legacy on the continent. The first centre was opened in Khayelitsha in Cape Town last year followed by the second one in Mathare in Nairobi earlier this month. Namibian Prime Minister, Nahas Angula said he was happy to see that Namibia has also leveraged from the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in neighbouring South Africa. “When South Africa won the bid for the World Cup, the government of Namibia encouraged everyone to position themselves strategically to benefit from the hosting of the World Cup considering that the tournament. I’m happy to stand here today and see that Special Olympics worked very hard to be direct beneficiaries. We are honoured to be part of the 20 Football for hope Centres.”

He appealed to the Namibian Special Olympics and the Namibian Football Association to work hard in engaging other partners to ensure sustainability of the centre. “We don’t want to see this centre as a white elephant in the future,” he said. “This centre must serve the right purpose it was formed for. It must be utilized to its fullest potential. It must benefit the youth, more especially here in Katutura. We would like to see many young people participating so that one day, someone can emerge from this centre who can be a leader. It should leave a footprint in the lives of many.”

Zaamwani-Kamwi said she was delighted with the opening of the centre and believes that this will herald a new era in the Katutura township. “Today will go down as a very special day in the history of Namibia Special Olympics. The opening of this centre is part of a vision by FIFA and its president [Joseph S.] Blatter to give back to Africa and to empower this continent. This, we hope, will be an extraordinary centre.”

Jan Coetzee, project manager at Streetfootballworld, said: “September has been a very exciting month for us. Two weeks ago, we were in one of the most disadvantaged areas in Nairobi and today we are thrilled to be part of the opening of this centre here in Namibia. This should be a platform for Special Olympics Namibia to provide a platform to perform their work. We look forward in working with them in the future.”

The centre boasts a computer lab, an artificial football turf and a public health services area. Katutura Football for Hope Centre manager, Bruce Heynes said he hopes the centre will become a hub of activities for the Katutura youth. Five more centres will be completed in the next four to five months in Mali, Rwanda, Ghana, Lesotho and South Africa (Mokopane).