For a thousand school children in the small town of Mogwase in South Africa’s North West Province, excellence on the sportsfield and the classroom has paid off handsomely.

Lying in the valley just outside Rustenburg, the Holy Family Combined School became the first in the country to benefit from World Cup legacy when 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa (OC) Chief Executive Officer, Dr Danny Jordaan, and FIFA Secretary General, Jérôme Valcke, officiated at a sod turning at the school.

The event marked the first day of work on the first of 52 football turfs that will be built in each of South Africa’s nine provinces to ensure that the hosting of the World Cup will leave a lasting legacy in decent sporting infrastructure for South Africa’s youth.

For 17-year-old learner, Lerato Seboka, the event was also about uplifting her community.

“Not everyone has these opportunities. This will also bring the people from our different communities together. And it will give people the opportunity to express themselves as well as their potential and their talent. Sixty per cent of our community is made up of the youth and if we can change the youth we can change our community,” she said.

The project – an initiative of the OC’s Legacy Department - received a 170 million rand donation from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, which will cover the cost of building the first 27 sites. To date one site has been identified in each of South Africa’s nine provinces.

Each site will get a clubhouse, ablution facilities, training lights and security fencing with the aim being to turn each site into a hub for sport and community development.

Valcke told children who gathered on the school field that the project was an example of how the World Cup will leave a lasting legacy in South Africa after the tournament has finished.

“After the last game has been played we don’t want to say thank you South Africa you have been a good host, goodbye. We want to make sure we can give to each African country an assurance that in the future there will be football leagues and football academies,” he said before announcing that every child at the school would receive a ticket to watch a World Cup match at the nearby Royal Bafokeng stadium, much to the delight of the excited learners

Jordaan encouraged the community of Mogwase to take pride in the project and to look after football turf.

“When you play here you must remember that there are other youngsters all over the world playing on similar pitches. And when you do anything you must do it in the spirit of the World Cup. Whatever you are doing always pursue it in the best way you can,” he said.

Elana Msimang, 15, said she felt privileged that her school – who achieved a 100 per cent pass rate last year – was chosen as the site for the first of many football pitches.

“We now have a safe place to play soccer. We are the best performing school in our area and that is why we get opportunities like this.”

For Goitsemang Molotlegi, 16, the FIFA World Cup will provide the opportunity to see some of his favourite players.

“I am a Portugual fan but I have to support South Africa. But I am behind South Africa all the way they are our team. I think South Africa have been given a chance to prove themselves,” he said.