MANY years ago when I was new in the media industry, one of my sports friends and former Maritzburg Football Association (MFA) executive member, Ismael Bhamjee (also Bhamjee’s Sports), told me that sport, especially soccer, was the cheapest way of unifying people from different religions, cultures or backgrounds.
Bhamjee told me about the good old days where local stadiums or grounds such as Tatham, Brookside, Showgrounds, Manor, to mention a few, attracted huge crowds of passionate soccer diehards every weekend.
Bhamjee said the atmosphere was magic, classy and out of this world.
What was also amazing and eye-catching he said was to see different race groups mingling, socialising as they sat together at the games and in those years local soccer was taken as a “must-attend” social family event.
I grew up when grounds such as Alexander Park, Tatham, Manor, Northdale, Protea Centre, Eastwood and Woodlands remained green and immaculate every season.
Playing an official fixture or just training on those fields was an honour. The groundsmen and caretakers were committed and loved their job.
Local old district associations or local football associations such as Padsa, Mdfa, Mfa and even Natal Midlands FA (old Regional Safa body) did not have any problem staging their games.
It is just unfortunate that the majority of all those old grounds are either in bad state, are neglected or no longer exist because our municipality neglects or forgot about them.
It is heart breaking because some of those grounds are now either prostitutes’ hang-outs or a criminal base. I am glad that our new councillors, mayors, municipal exco members and other politically related structures were recently voted in - five months ago to be precise - and are expected to bring much needed service delivery with them.
The condition of Tatham, Manor, Northdale (outer fields), Dales Park and other grounds make you wonder if our municipality really cares about our history and legacy.
In my area - Eastwood, Ward 34 - the state of the sports facilities is disgusting and have been so for more than 10 years.
I always wonder why government departments, for example, the Department of Sports and Recreation and Msunduzi’s Parks and Recreation overlook such issues and for so long?