Sports are one of the ways in which a nation’s people can find hope, and look beyond their very real and prevailing struggles. This is especially true for the youth of any country. Playing a sport, or simply cheering on their city’s local team gives young people a connection with their community and a sense of optimism for their future.
This is what is happening in modern-day South Africa. This country has a very rich history. Some good, some bad. Unfortunately, though, the last few years have been particularly difficult for this Southernmost country on the African continent. For several years, South Africa’s economy and its currency (Rand) have not been doing well.
This has led to market economists like David Rees, who specializes in the South African economy to state that the “dire fiscal position, coupled with high inflation and a fragile balance of payment positions, all point to a further depreciation of the Rand against the dollar in 2016/17.” The economic outlook for this country is not good. Job growth is stagnant, and the mining industry is even taking a hit.
Regardless of how much the South African stock market drops, or how low the Rand dips… South Africa’s unabating spirit of positivity and goodwill shall overcome these fiscally difficult times. You can see that the South African spirit is alive and well is by paying close attention to how this country approaches its commitment to its youth and their passion for soccer.
South Africa has always had a love affair with this open field sport. Even Nelson Mandela said that one of his “heroes” was none other than the famous footy player, Lucas Radebe. You know soccer is a big deal in South Africa when the man who brought freedom to his people and their country, calls a player his personal hero.
South African soccer players are showing a tendency to breaking into new markets and diversify their profiles, signing up as brand ambassadors for global brands as diverse as McDonald’s and Danone all the way across the spectrum to local charitable campaigns such as the RTMC. This is likely only the beginning, as other world economies showing a significant boom in the number of promising young players and significant corporate sponsorship is seeing players engage in off-pitch activities as diverse as motor racing or poker, as was the case recently with ubiquitous FC Barcelona star Neymar Jr. The South African scene has yet to find its own Neymar, but given the popularity of these players, and the sheer numbers of young soccer players after 2010 (the year in which South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup) that time will surely come soon.
Ever since the World Cup came to this country, South Africa has spent a considerable amount of its time and treasure keeping up with the young players who want to play soccer. The excitement to play has given these youths a sense of purpose. It has also allowed them to connect with their community and fellow countrymen and women.
One of the largest organizations to encourage and support the South African football youth is the South African Football Association (SAFA). The SAFA has used its football training programs, team matches and financial support to foster a sense of hope for the youths of South Africa. This organization has been around for several years. In 1991, the SAFA was justifiably birthed out of a righteous indignation, brought about by the heinous practice knows as apartheid. Back then, this organization was specifically created to “rid the sport (football) of all its past racial division.” They have done an amazing job!
The SAFA has been responsible for spreading the hopeful message, and play of youth football by increasing the number of teams that play across this country. The SAFA is also responsible for referee training, coaching education and even paying for young footballer’s education through its study assistance program.
It doesn’t matter what the economic climate is like in South Africa. There is hope for this country’s youth! This is because the SAFA and many other organizations across South Africa are working to inspire and encourage the youth of this gorgeous and culturally rich African nation.