Lifeline for city sport

2014-06-16 00:00

SPORTS facilities in Pietermaritzburg are finally getting attention — and money — from the municipality after years of neglect.

The Msunduzi Municipality is upbeat that the situation is about to change for the better. The municipality has always conceded that as a result of the city facing bankruptcy and going under administration three years ago, the first to suffer was sports and recreation.

However, this year for the first time there is a major budget for upgrading and maintenance of sports facilities. The budget also mentions the revamp of Alexandra Park and the building of new parks in Edendale. Msunduzi Speaker Babu Baijoo said the details will be set out in the Sevice Delivery budget Implementation plan (SDIP) due to be released at the end of the month.

Daniel Haswell, head of development for Maritzburg United, has carried out an informal survey across the city, and says the picture looks bleak. He claims there are not enough facilities for the demand and existing fields are being over-used.

A father who did not want to be named so as not the embarrass his son, said his son was a football fanatic and was determined to rise up the leagues and even play in the national team. “My fear for him is that he could get injured on these grounds and this could put paid to his dreams,” the father said.

Given the state of existing fields, members of the local football fraternity asked how the city expected to grow future Bafana Bafana players.

Haswell said the football fraternity was better served 20 years ago, with several soccer fields in Alexandra Park all kept in pristine condition and all very well utilised. He said Qokololo stadium, named after the city’s legendary soccer administrator Qokololo Hlope, used to be one of the busiest grounds. A shopping centre has now been built on it. “Many of the teams now use the smaller Ashdown grounds and this pitch is getting hammered.”

Bonginkosi Madlala, chairperson of the South African Schools Football Association for the uMgungundlovu region, can tick off the number of football fields in the city that have been given over for development. He said besides Qokololo, which is now a shopping centre, Brookside is a taxi rank and the Tatham grounds appear set to be taken over for housing.

The grounds in Manor Gardens have been earmarked for the new ML Sultan School. He said fields that were formerly used for football in Alexandra Park have been converted to athletic and cycling tracks or given up for flea markets.

For Madlala, having playing fields in the city meant they were accessible to children from all the suburbs.

Benjamin Hartshorne of the Savages Football Club and vice-chairperson of the Maritzburg and District Football Association (MDFA), said every field in Alexandra Park was once used for football. He said there were over 600 young players ranging from four years old and that there was understandable concern that the grounds were being overused.

The latest concern among the sporting fraternity is the proposal by consultants drafting a local area plan for the municipality that there should be high-density housing on the fringes of Alexandra and Dales parks.

The draft proposals are up for comment from the public until June 30. The proposed local area plans for the city central area are available on the municipal website


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