Global Goodwill Grows Dreams in Upington
In one corner of the field, a team was putting on soccer boots bought with money from Australia, assisted by youth workers funded by the Dutch government. In another, children were sorting out shirts paid for by Italians, while their neighbours knocked around shiny new balls contributed by an amateur football club in Sweden.
Dreamfields has benefited before from the generosity of foreign football fans, but never quite in the way we did at Paballelo township in Upington. The first impetus to do something in this Northern Cape town came from an English journalist living in Spain. John Carlin – who spent many years in South Africa – was back in the country researching his acclaimed book Playing the Enemy, which told the story of the 1995 Rugby World Cup and inspired the movie Invictus.
Among the people he interviewed was Justice Bekebeke, an activist now in provincial government, who spent a number of years on Death Row. Bekebeke told Carlin of his desire to use football to uplift his township. “Soccer didn’t make me a Jomo Sono, a great football star, but it gave me the discipline and determination I needed to become a lawyer,” he said. “We need to encourage some of these young people, not just to be football stars, but to work together and use soccer to inspire something better in their lives.”
Carlin connected Bekebeke with Dreamfields, and set the ball rolling by buying the first two DreamBags himself. Generous contributions followed from all over the world – and from South Africa - including:
• FC Osterlen, an amateur club in Sweden, raised money by getting local business to reward them for each goal scored;
• Sport per Tutti, an anti-racist sports organisation in Italy, bought one DreamBag (and two more for children’s homes in Gauteng);
• The Make An Immediate Difference Foundation, set up by the South Africa’s Lubner family, put in R50,000;
• Australian Tony Crabb and his family marked their visit for the 2010 World Cup by raising money for two DreamBags
The DreamEvent was a wonderful success and the prospects going forward are exciting. Dreamfields partnered in Upington with Youth Zones, an organisation set up by Roelf Meyer’s Foundation for a Safer South Africa and backed by the government of the Netherlands. Their work in Paballelo includes setting up computer centres, and they will play a key role in helping us to run the primary schools DreamLeague.
While the children tried to keep their eye on the ball, they couldn’t help looking over at a magnificent new artificial pitch which has been built by the 2010 Legacy committee as part of their countrywide work. Danny Jordaan and Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile cut the ribbon on the facility in early October.
So lots to inspire young people in the one province that missed out on hosting the World Cup – and Carlin had this to say: “I am so thrilled that this dream has come true. My hope now is that the children, assisted by their elders in the community, will have the opportunity to derive the benefits that football provides – team-building, discipline, exercise and just plain fun – for a long time to come.”