Sport at grass roots level is the foundation of a healthy and competitive sporting nation, but the lack of adequate sporting facilities and financial support limits young, upcoming athletes’ abilities to reach their full potential.
This is even worse in rural communities, where these facilities are non-existent. The only sporting facilities available there are open soccer grounds with natural grass or just plain gravel, where the young athletes must share the fields with grazing cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.
We have the department of sport, recreation, arts and culture (DSRAC). the national federations and local municipalities. Are these bodies not supposed to make sport a priority? What is happening to the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) that is tabled year in and year out in the municipal budget? It seems sport is blatantly ignored.
Mass participation among young people is of paramount importance. It builds discipline and character and teaches the values of life in general. But instead of seeing these young people on the sports fields they are engaging in alcohol and drug abuse and unprotected sex.
Sport must not only be seen as a business where a few make a profit. Structured sporting events should be launched for the benefit for all communities, especially those in rural areas. Lack of proper playing fields, sports equipment and kit will derail any prospect of unearthing rough diamonds hidden in these valleys.
Even schools in rural areas don’t have fields. If they did it could at least benefit the local clubs and communities who could form a partnership to maintain the fields. For now, schools operate in isolation and play no meaningful role in the development of the community, apart from education.
Sport can be a game changer in rural communities if more attention is given to it.
DSRAC launched the Rural Sport Development Programme in 2016 in Mthatha. Is it effective?
The objective of the programme was to revive sport and unearth talent in rural areas with the specific focus on areas that are under the traditional authorities and farms.
Its main focus was on football, netball, rugby and athletics. Five years down the line can we see rewards? Instead we are back with the same conversation. Te hard truth is that the lack of facilities in rural areas is stagnating the development of the child from a rural background.