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Mining for gold in forgotten communities

Reflecting on the Commonwealth Games, Peter John Moses asks why certain communities – ravaged by drugs and gangsterism, are excluded from sporting investments. Not only have these communities produced gold in the past, an investment in these communities is exactly what might solve the growth of gangsterism and drug abuse.

The untapped sporting potential on the Cape Flats and other similar communities is something for every sport lover in South Africa to pay attention to. There is a diversity of skills so big at our disposal that no one sporting code can claim dominance over the rest. However, talent is being lost before it even has a chance to develop. Investing in sport in these communities might not only produce future heroes, it could also save youth from the clutches of gangsterism and drugs. Sadly, while our country's mining interests are very much focused on gold, it would appear that we're not interested in searching for it where the streets have no names.

But hang on a second! Are these nameless streets not the very streets that produced Benni McCarthy, Quinton Fortune, Geraldine Pillay, JP Duminy and Wayde van Niekerk? Despite these streets having proven themselves before, they have been left without investment and our communities are losing future sport stars to violence, indifference and drug abuse. None of the sport codes are really tapping into this huge sporting gold mine and therefore many talented youngsters lose their way and remain stuck in cycles of poverty and dashed dreams of what could have been. Just like their parents and older family members before them, these young talents get very little assistance.

The lack of creative mining in sport is an indictment on those who are holding onto the reigns of power – too blind or lazy to see the wasted opportunities. The greed and self-important natures of many officials entrusted with the improvement of their chosen sport causes so much damage to the futures of these many young men and women. Not enough financial funding is being invested in developing these young people, to not only become professional athletes but well-rounded human beings and productive members of society as well. The two often go hand in hand. Many youth are allowed to drift away into an ocean of nothingness, and nobody seems to care. These youngsters who come from poor backgrounds and broken homes, need a full long-term investment to even give them half a chance of making it, but nobody in power is willing to do more than offer up lip service to making this happen.

Why did it take a big foreign company to give world and Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk a big sponsorship deal to finally make all his years of sacrifice worthwhile and provide him with a very good living? Why is Caster Semenya still struggling to make good money from sponsorships, when she is one of the greatest running exports this country has ever produced? Akani Simbine finally has a proper sponsor backing him and his coach so that they can work together full-time and get the best out of the South African, African and Olympic sprinting sensation. How much better, and how much more dominating, would these athletes have been if there was a concerted effort to fund their lives and dreams full-time? Athletes from America struggle to keep up with these superstars, but many of them are fully sponsored professional athletes who sign million-dollar contracts sometimes before they leave school. These athletes and other South African sporting heroes bring pride to our nation when they perform well on the world stage and are walking advertisements for our tourism industries because people want to visit the countries these sporting stars come from. Everybody loves a winner.

As important as monetary investments are for the sporting codes out there, struggling to attract and to develop future stars, the other important thing that is missing from the equation is the exposure needed to not only attract sponsors, but also to inspire and motivate the next generation to get involved. The ministry of sport in South Africa needs to seriously adopt a policy of forcing broadcasters to show national teams at sporting events and make it available to much of the nation and not a selected few. The recent success achieved by the South African team at the Commonwealth Games went largely unnoticed by the populace who couldn’t follow on social media platforms and the pay-channels like DSTV. The occasional mention on the public broadcasting news slots just didn’t justify the performances given by our amazing athletes who made the country proud and deserved so much better. The common excuse used by broadcasters is that it’s too expensive to get the television rights!

Our athletes deserve better! We as a populace deserve better! Sport is not about money and fame, it is about working towards your dream and using the best of your abilities to inspire others to keep chasing theirs. Nobody will see gold, or other valuable minerals, if we do not go and take it out of the earth. It takes hard work and sacrifice to get a chance to admire the beauty of those precious things. Let us not waste the precious talents of these young men and women. Let us work together to get the best from them so that they too can shine and bring joy to those who behold their gifts.

Image: SaferSpace / Cape Flats Soccer project profile

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.