Cape Town & race – A sporting chance

2012-02-11 12:50

Each time Ajax Cape Town has a home game at Cape Town Stadium, the club brings in 20 bus loads of youngsters from a cross section of the city’s schools.

The youngsters of all races mix and mingle in a show of united support for their team.
While the aim is firstly to build a future support base for the club, Riyaad Khan, co-ordinator of the Ajax Community Scheme Project, says they also want to bridge racial divides by getting youngsters from different racial groups and backgrounds to interact through football.
The project uses football as a tool to teach youngsters life skills, about HIV/Aids, and drug and anti-crime awareness.

“The fruits of this are going to be seen when the kids become older,” says Khan.

“They get to sit together and socialise, and to them race does not matter. The main attraction is football, but it brings people from different walks of life together.
“We want them to say I’m a Capetonian and I’m proud,” says Khan. “The bigger picture is to build a positive human being.”

The project, which includes the Cape Flats and townships across the city, extends to areas in the Cape winelands, including Paarl and Stellenbosch, and covers 120 schools.

But while football is the more popular sport in the city and province, rugby also enjoys massive support, particularly among the white Afrikaner and coloured communities.

Western Province rugby deputy chief executive Herman Abrahams says they are involved in grassroots development programmes that cut across all races.
Like Ajax’s community schemes, such programmes are geared towards not only promoting the sport, but contributing to long-term racial integration.

“All the province’s leagues, from primary schools to senior club rugby, are fully integrated,” says Abrahams.
“Currently, we have nine clubs in the various townships that play in our league and have given a very good account of themselves.”

The union has also started an Under-20 league which, says Abrahams, “is played on Sundays and eight teams compete here”.

Encouraging girls to get involved in this previously all-male sport is part of the package.
“Women’s rugby is growing at its best in the townships and this is due to the number of clinics held at schools in the area,” Abrahams says.

In the past, questions were raised about the union’s reluctance to allow football matches to be played at rugby’s traditional headquarters – Cape Town’s Newlands Stadium.

It was suggested that this was because football was mainly supported by people of colour.
But Ajax public relations officer Shooz Mekuto says it was “just small things, like when we play we want the grass to be cut very short and the rugby guys would want it long”.

In fact, Ajax now use Newlands as their alternative home ground which, says Mekuto, points to the maturity of the relationship between these once very separate sporting giants.

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