Club that said, ‘Yes, we can’

2011-12-12 00:00

THEY call themselves the “Nots Club”. The name is about all the things they were not allowed to do because of apartheid restrictions, yet still managed to achieve. It is about mentors who did not let community members waste their lives, but created opportunities for them. It is about not forgetting your roots and giving back to the community.

The club was officially launched at the Eddels clubhouse in Mountain Rise last Friday and its members are the generation of youngsters — now all well into middle age — who lived in downtown Pietermaritzburg in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. In effect they were the inner city youth who grew up in an era that offered almost nothing by way of sports facilities, yet they found dusty grounds on which to play soccer and cricket. Many recalled games being played in the middle of the road on weekends and in the evenings.

The club’s spokesperson, Morgan Pillay, said lives changed when the Berg Street Swimming Pool opened in the late 1960s. Even that happened because members of the community fought hard for the facility after three children drowned in a spruit on Haythorne’s Hill. Among the guests of honour at Friday’s function were former lifesavers at the pool.

The Nots Club chose to honour mentors at its first official event attended by over 250 guests. Many of the former inner city residents, who have moved to other parts of the country, travelled to Maritzburg to attend the function.

The mentors honoured were uMgungundlovu Mayor Yusuf Bhamjee and his brother Ismail, who were part of the downtown community. Pillay, who was compère on the night, said Bhamjee was their soccer coach and if he ever retired from politics he could become a coach again.

Pillay described Ismail as an excellent soccer and cricket player, a proud and longstanding member of the Young Natalians club who remained committed to nurturing sport among young people.

Retired headmaster and sports administrator Babs Sithapersadh was also honoured. Now an octogenarian, Sithapersadh still promotes sport in the lives of young people and is today involved with indoor soccer.

Other mentors honoured were Madhan Singh for his work as a schools sports organiser and sports administrator and Mothi “Daddy” Rajcoomar, an outstanding football player in his day, who inspired many of the club members to follow in his footsteps.

Sithapersadh was guest speaker. He said that although his career suffered when he failed to get promoted as a result of his support for non-racial sport, he has no regrets.

He said his father had taught him that if anything seemed wrong, to stand up and speak out and always be prepared to help people in trouble. What is life if you can’t do a little bit of good, he asked.

He urged the guests to get involved in community affairs.

Pillay said this is precisely what the Nots Club plans to do.

“We too, like our mentors, want to help a future generation of children to look forward to a better future and we will not stand by and allow them to be subject to the kind of humiliation we had suffered,” he added.

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