Mini World Cup for the youth

2009-04-15 00:00

Two months before the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup tournament opens in South Africa, the first official Mini World Cup will be staged in Pietermaritzburg. Based at Hilton College, it will bring together about 300 boys and girls from South African, Zimbabwean and German youth groups, and from schools and townships in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, who will participate in a five-day soccer camp, with, among other things, a coaching clinic, a football competition, team-building sessions and plenty of open discussion of topics important to the young.

As Alwyn Francis described in yesterday’s feature article, the aim of the Mini World Cup is to encourage young people in Pietermaritzburg and the midlands to “shoot for one goal” in making the best of opportunities presented by the Fifa World Cup. This means that although the five-day tournament should — and rightly so — encourage the development of a pool of young soccer talent, the real purpose of the experience and training is to inculcate life skills that will shape the way participants think and behave long after 2010.

That this healthy initiative has met with wide approval is indicated by the number of organisations and individuals that have already pledged financial support. As has long been acknowledged — and confirmed by the passionate enthusiasm country wide for preparations for the Fifa World Cup, as well as the eager anticipation ahead of the Confederations Cup — soccer, “the beautiful game”, is hugely important in this country, especially when South Africa is staking its reputation on its ability to host the biggest tournament in the world. How grand, then, to use football in a new way: not as a monster money maker, a vehicle for dazzling self-display, or the scene of dirty political manoeuvrings — all things that can damage people and society at large — but as a means of nation building. The Mini World Cup hopes to bring young people together and to help them discover that human unity and common purpose have more to recommend them than division based on colour, culture, class or anything else. The initiative deserves to succeed.

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