Sports garden for Durban

2008-07-11 00:00

Skateboarders are not just “posers with expensive clothes”. Soccer is not just for cool dudes with expensive kit. Instead, soccer is one of the most universal games on the planet and sport in general breaks down barriers and teaches youngsters from all backgrounds the value of understanding and mutual respect.

This is the belief of Ulli Barde, the brand owner of One Nation Cup 2008 and a director of Sportgarten, a youth affairs and sports development organisation in Germany. Although currently in the country for the staging of the One Nation Cup U15 International Soccer Tournament at the George Campbell Technical High School, Barde is on another important mission — the creation of a local Sportgarten or “sports garden” — similar to the one pursued 10 years ago in Durban’s twin city of Bremen, Germany.

In between arranging the One Nation Cup over the past week and keeping an eye on the twinning of international participants with local teams, Barde has been chatting to the eThekwini Municipality about creating a community sporting facility that could play a proactive role in luring youngsters out of socially suspect environments.

The original sports park in Bremen was a response to complaints from youngsters that there was not enough space or facilities to take part in social sports. It was created largely thanks to the efforts of the young people themselves, who helped raise some of the funds. It now houses soccer, hockey, tennis and horse riding facilities, a BMX track, a skateboarding park and a beach volley ball court. Although it is used by people from ages six to 60, it is the chief stomping ground for sport enthusiasts under 28.

Barde said that Durban mayor Obed Mlaba realised that this formula could work well in Durban during a visit to Bremen in 2002. The possibility of making it a reality was kickstarted when Barde visited Durban in 2006 to plan the next leg of the One Nation Cup.

The sports garden is not the first youth sports development project between the two cities. In March this year, a group of German scholars lived and worked at the village of kwaXinba in the Valley Of A Thousand Hills, repairing a ramp at the Indigo Skateboard Park.

Barde said this proved an important cultural exchange and ties will not be severed as scholars are busy planning a return visit — only this will take youngsters from the rural reaches of the Valley of A Thousand Hills to Bremen.

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