True to the Chinese adage that a journey of a thousand miles starts but with one step, the Spanish La Liga kicked off its campaign to distribute a million soccer balls in Africa by giving the South African Football Association 2 000.
This was at the launch of a multi-faceted partnership between the two organisations held at the Nike Football Centre in Pimville, Soweto, today.
A memorandum of understanding between the two parties was signed earlier this year by Safa president Danny Jordaan and his La Liga counterpart Javier Tebas.
Today’s proceedings were presided over by Jordaan and director of La Liga’s Africa office Antonio Barradas.
“As La Liga we are serious about contributing to the development of football in Africa,” said Barradas. “We don’t just want people to watch our matches on television but we want our presence to be felt, hence we have already established an office here in Johannesburg.”
As well as distributing the balls, Barradas said his organisation would also send a group of football coaches to coach school children and train teachers as coaches.
“We would also like to be seriously involved in the development of women football in this country.”
Jordaan said this partnership was in line with his organisation’s Vision 2022. He said they were so serious about development that: “While previously we were struggling as a country to send players overseas, our Academy in eThekwini (Durban Under-19 International Academy) has already sent eight players overseas.
“Our Under-17s have made it to the World Cup for the first time [in 2015], we were the only African country that had both a women and men’s teams at the last Olympic Games in Brazil.”
Asked about the duration of the partnership, Jordaan quipped: “Football will outlive all of us. I hope this partnership will continue well beyond my tenure as Safa president.”
Barradas said they hoped to bring the first batch of coaches some time in September.
“We hope to have about 100 coaches who will train coaches from the same number of schools in the beginning.”
He said their main target was primary schools. Those trained earlier would then be able to train other coaches to increase the number and footprint.