The efforts of a local NGO paid off when Western Province soccer players with disabilities won a gold medal at the Disabled Games in Bloemfontein over Easter.
To top it all off, seven of the players have been chosen to represent South Africa at the World Championships in Spain in August.
Play Sport4Life (PS4L), a non-profit company operating in the Kensington, Factreton and Maitland areas, helped the team raise the R50 000 required for the trip at short notice.
The company set up a crowdfunding page and received money from as far as Australia and Canada.
PS4L was established to provide opportunities for children, youth and adults to participate in sport, thereby helping them become healthier, more responsible citizens in their community.
Thanks to their efforts and the generosity of members of the public through donations, the country and province will be placed on the world map.
“This is fantastic news for the boys, and well deserved,” says PS4L head Miles October.
“It was a tremendous effort all round and PS4L appreciates the contributions from everybody. These boys do not have the resources, financial or otherwise, to realise their dreams. We are thrilled for them.”
The team’s coach, Kevin Valentine, could not praise his team enough after they won four games in three days and went on to beat Gauteng 3-0 in the final.
“As a coach, I couldn’t complain. Normally by the third day there’s nothing left in the tank, but we stood firm,” Valentine says.
“I must admit, I didn’t really care if we won a medal. We set the standards really high. I only hope we can repeat that next year.
“This team means everything to me. I’ve been with them since they were little boys, and to take them to a higher senior level – and succeed – is priceless.
“There’s still so much I have to learn in coaching players with disabilities in different categories. You can’t just play your best – you must balance the team according to the number of categories [disabled] allowed.”
Among the players, no-one is more thrilled than 20-year-old Eros Grade 12 learner, Sango Ntsabo from Khayelitsha.
“It was so much fun on the bus, showing up and playing, and in the end winning the gold. I was really happy. It was my first time as part of a provincial team,” Ntsabo says.
“We were the smallest team. No-one believed we would win and we did. I want to be even more ready for when we host the provinces next year. It is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.”
October hopes the team will receive funding from the provincial and national governments for the Spain trip as expected, but says his organisation will help again if called on to do so.