The city of Maseru, the capital town of the Kingdom of Lesotho, was the centre of activities on Saturday afternoon as locals came in numbers to witness the opening of the Lesotho Football for Hope Centre.

This is part of FIFA’s ‘20 Centres for 2010’ campaign, an initiative started in order for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ to leave a lasting legacy on the African continent. The Lesotho Football for Hope Centre will be hosted by Kick 4 Life, a Lesotho-based charity organisation that uses the power of sport to transform the lives of orphans and vulnerable children.

FIFA’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Federico Addiechi said the opening of the centre in Maseru was yet another step towards FIFA’s fulfilment of its promise to the African continent.

“For many years, FIFA has made it part of its mission to develop initiatives that act as a catalyst for change in our society,” Addiechi explained. “With the creation of Football for Hope in 2005, FIFA not only acknowledged the role that football can play in social development worldwide, but also committed to make use of our game, our expertise and our resources to tackle social challenges across the globe.

I hope that the kids of Maseru will also use this opportunity to change their lives and that of their families.

Lucas Radebe

“With the opening of the Football for Hope Centre here in Maseru today, we have taken yet another step towards fulfilling that promise across the continent: a promise to put football to work for the benefit of education and health. Access to education and health are fundamental rights that are essential to provide the next generation with fair chances for the future.”

The Maseru Football for Hope Centre is expected to be a hub of activities, including teaching about HIV/AIDS awareness, education, testing, counseling and mentoring. It will also focus on imparting essential life skills to the youth, personal development, as well as various social enterprise projects for vulnerable young women.

The launch in Maseru was attended, among others, by Lesotho government officials together with African football legend and former Leeds United captain Lucas Radebe and Lesotho’s most successful footballer and former national captain, Lehlohonolo Seema.

Radebe has been the epitome of a rags-to-riches story, having endured the hardship of growing up in the dusty streets of Soweto. In many ways, he relates to the kids who will be using the centre. “Football gave me an opportunity to have a better life. To be where I am, I have been given many opportunities by people and I grabbed those chances. I hope that the kids of Maseru will also use this opportunity to change their lives and that of their families,” Radebe said.

Seema also lauded the initiative: “You have to see the smiles on these kids to realise what this means to them. I’m glad that finally my country is getting the recognition it deserves. We are proud of this centre.”

Kids will gain knowledge
Thato Matlapeng is a former street kid whose life has been transformed by programmes run by Kick 4 Life. He is excited about the fact that he will now have a place where he can visit daily to empower himself. “For me and other guys faced with similar challenges, I think this centre will have a meaningful role in our lives. It will inspire us to think beyond our circumstances. We will get a lot of knowledge of various things. We are excited,” Thato said.

Lesotho Football for Hope Centre manager, Refiloe Maphallela, is the man who will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the facilities and the programmes. He said:  “This centre is a great initiative and its opening is a fantastic event that Kick 4 Life hopes to share with the entire community of Maseru. The entire centre will be used as a central hub for young people around the country to participate and benefit from all of Kick 4 Life’s educational and health programmes while enjoying our football facilities.”

Lesotho Football Association vice-president Tlholo Letete said: “I hope this centre does not only produce good footballers but also leaders for our football and country.”

Other centres are based in Khayelitsha in South Africa, Mathare in Kenya, Katutura in Namibia and in Bamako in Mali. Work, in different stages of development, is ongoing in 11 more centres in Botswana, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania.