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Ken Borland



Former Vaal greats tapping into the reservoir of footballing talent in Sedibeng 0

Posted on July 29, 2016 by Ken

 

There is a vast, largely untapped reservoir of footballing talent lurking out of sight and out of mind near Johannesburg. The gritty industrial area known as the Vaal south of Jozi is a region that lives in the shadow of the great city and its famous stepchild, Soweto.

More than one million people live in the Sedibeng region that includes historic locations like Sharpeville, Sebokeng and Evaton. The Vaal is also the gravitational heart for the northern Free State dorps of Heilbron, Parys, Kroonstad, Sasolburg and also Heidelberg.

Rich in political history, this area has a lesser known heroic soccer past too, with a local team being the first to represent then newly-democratic South Africa in African competition.

While the locals complain about the roads that are rapidly becoming potholes surrounded by islands of tar and wonder how the massive ArcelorMittal factory in Vanderbijlpark benefits the community, there is a group of residents who are laying the foundations for not only the development of all that football talent in the region, but also a long-desired return of professional soccer to the Vaal Triangle.

Vaal Professionals were based in the Sedibeng region and used to be one of the most feared teams in the old national soccer league, winning the BobSave SuperBowl (now the Nedbank Cup) in 1994, becoming the first South African team to play in the Mandela Cup – the African Cup Winners’ cup – and being a founder member of the PSL in 1996.

But football politics and the depressed economic situation of the region reared their ugly heads and Vaal Professionals disappeared around the turn of the century. Their coach at that time was the former Kaizer Chiefs legend Simon “Bull” Lehoko and he is behind the efforts to resurrect the club where his fabulous career started.

“Back in 1970, the NPSL was formed and we were one of the founder members. I played for Vaal Professionals for seven years, but in my eighth year I went to Kaizer Chiefs and Vaal Professionals were relegated to the second division,” said Lehoko.

“I spent eight years at Kaizer Chiefs before I retired in 1985 because of my knee. Kaizer Motaung refused to let me go, but I came back home to work with young guys and rebuild the Vaal Professionals team with Johannes “Man” Direro and 10 other players from Real X20, my father’s team.

“Then the split came, when the NSL was formed in 1985 and they took all the best teams and sponsors. But the NPSL president was our own George Thabe, a local man, so it made it tough for us to choose who to follow.”

He said, “But the George Thabe Stadium was still full when we played the top teams and it became a stronghold of the NPSL, even though the NSL was favoured in places like Boipatong and Sebokeng. But there was no prize money in the NPSL for three or four years and the players called a meeting with the supporters. Players were starting to go for nothing and we were aware that we could lose the whole team.

“So we decided to leave the NPSL but the NSL gave us a second-division place in 1988 even though they had promised us a first division place because we were very strong, winning the NPSL from 1986 to 1988. We chased promotion until 1991, but there was a lot of bribery in those days and points were taken away from us.

“We would lead for the whole year but then it would fall apart at the end with referees giving us red cards and other things. An example was what happened to us when we were leading 3-0 at Potgietersrus. The referee gave penalties against us until it was 3-4 and then the red cards came.

“Teams fielded ineligible players against us and we won those cases despite the arbitrator being the same guy who heard the original case. We were also offered R150 000 to only take promotion the following year,” Lehoko remembered.

Promotion eventually came and Vaal Professionals were a tough side to beat, especially at their home venues of George Thabe and Zamdela stadiums.

“We were doing well and teams like Chiefs and Pirates used to jump the fences here to avoid the muti they thought was outside the change rooms …

“But by 1997/98, everybody was after us. We were offered R8-million to disappear but this club serves the community! They won’t go to Orlando Stadium or go watch Kaizer Chiefs, we even had a supporters’ club in Soweto.

“So they tried to relegate us using the referees. But one referee actually gave his money back, saying Vaal Professionals were too powerful. The only way they could beat us was by underhand means,” he said.

While Lehoko and several of his former Vaal Professionals colleagues have their hearts set on top-level football returning to the area, they are also squarely behind efforts at grassroots level to develop not only the football skills of youth in the area but also their life skills and ability to handle the tremendous social challenges they face.

The idea of drawing on the experience of these former professional footballers was Richard “Bricks” Mokolo’s. A former Vaal Professionals player, Mokolo is a paralegal for the Centre for Human Rights and the Orange Farm Human Rights Advice Centre, and is also involved in campaigns against racism and xenophobia.

He formed the Soccer Legends in 2007 and the impressive initiative benefits both the former players, who often don’t know what to do with themselves once their careers have ended, and the youth who need guidance and inspiration.

“For most former players, it’s a dramatic life change when you retire and it can become very stressful. They feel they’ve lost control of their lives; you’re no more Bull the Man. That kind of prestige is addictive and they lose their dignity along with the fame and respect. Now you’re on your own plus you have to provide for your family and you’re unemployed,” said Mokolo.

“But we’ve opened the door with this programme for the legends to get recognition and their space back. Before, a lot of these former players were unemployed and they would just drink during the day. Man Direro was a teacher and this gives him a chance to do something, to share his experience with learners and assist with life skills as well as being a soccer coach. There are about 40 former professional footballers in the Soccer Legends and they can also assist current players to plan and prepare for the future.”

This means half the benefit goes to the former players doing the teaching and the other half to their students. But they are not just being given football tips by the pros but also being taught life skills.

“It’s not just about soccer but also about social challenges. We’re not just teaching them skills because they come from poor families and we can’t forget about their backgrounds. We teach the Soccer Legends to deal with these issues. We’ve conducted research into the challenges facing both current and future players, and substance abuse is the main problem.

“We also offer counselling for those who’ve suffered domestic violence and we can mediate as alternative role models in the community. We encourage the children to use libraries and we support reading and writing projects.

“The kids may not have seen the Soccer Legends play, but when they’re introduced it motivates children through sports,” Mokolo points out.

A prime example of the success of the Soccer Legends project comes in the form of the Jet Nteo and Mohloli secondary schools, who have excelled in the Motsepe Cup, a top-class national schools competition that this year offers R1-million to the winning team.

A year after introducing the Soccer Legends programme to the Boipatong school, Jet Nteo won the Motsepe Cup and Mohloli, from Sharpeville, also have a fine record in the competition.

Lehoko said: “Bricks is a professor of life skills and he organised courses for us at the Sports Science Institute, the department of sports and recreation and Theta. But to do these courses you rely on sponsorships.”

The Soccer Legends is a pilot project and Mokolo says a lack of funding is all that is holding it back from making an even bigger impact in the Sedibeng area.

“We’ve started a pilot project and we’re seeing the results. The problem is we have no sponsors. Most times we’re in the schools it’s because we’ve volunteered and we can’t keep the children for more than three hours without food. The municipality says they have no money to help us.”

Among the dozens of complaints heard in one day chatting to the Soccer Legends were that local politicians are more interested in petty power plays than actually supporting efforts to benefit the community, that promises made before the 2010 World Cup have never come to fruition and that professional teams don’t belong to the communities they are based in.

People inside the municipality want to control the football projects, but they know nothing about football and they don’t want to bring these opportunities to the Soccer Legends. They’re not actually implementing anything,” Aggripa “Malombo” Tsoari complained.

“Most people here are saying the Soccer Legends are the last hope,” according to Mokolo.

“By 2008 we were strong and preparing for the World Cup. They were told after the World Cup that their lives would change … We were given hope that life will change, and things have changed, but only to make us poorer.”

Not coincidentally, the hundreds of protesters who gathered in Zamdela in early April were venting their anger at the alleged corruption in mayor Brutus Mahlaku’s office.

As Mokolo pointed out, footballers have also been at the forefront of local politics in this country. “We used to say we were victims of apartheid and we couldn’t take our talent to the outside world. At Vaal Professionals, one of our officials was a security policeman. He would take our training in the morning and then arrest us at night for being protesters!

“It was a milestone when football liberation was achieved and we were integrated 19 years before Nelson Mandela was released. But now we’re football victims but no one called us to the TRC.”

So instead Mokolo, the sort of proactive, hands-on administrator that gets things going and makes ideas work, has set up the Bull Lehoko Fund to “capacitate” the Soccer Legends. “There’s no chance of politicians doing anything, so we need to come up with strategies to survive, like the Bull Lehoko Fund which links football to social challenges like nutrition, food and education. As a group, we want to arm ourselves with different skills,” said Mokolo.

How exciting would it be to see not only the return of Vaal Professionals but also the grassroots growth of the game in that area being put under the control of professionals like the Soccer Legends?

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-30-soccer-the-forgotten-talents-of-the-vaal-professionals/#.V583c_l97IU

Pass The Buck – A sporting area Mbalula excels in 0

Posted on April 30, 2016 by Ken

 

If there’s one area of sport that Fikile Mbalula, the Minister of Razzmatazz and Grand Gestures Without Any Substance, is probably an expert in it would be the art of passing, even if his distribution skills are rather one-dimensional.

Mbalula produced one of the most dramatic Passing The Buck moves ever seen in South African sport this week; sadly his distribution skills are strictly limited to dishing out blame rather than what he should be providing, which is governmental impetus to efforts to provide greater opportunities for the disadvantaged.

We must never forget that Mbalula is at heart a politician, not a sports lover, but even by those low standards his actions this week have been extremely cynical. If Richie McCaw had done something as cynical in the All Blacks’ 22, even a New Zealand referee would have yellow-carded him.

I want to make it clear that I fully support transformation and a sport like rugby clearly still has a long way to go if the Springboks are to field a team that is even close to being fully representative of the nation. Cricket have tried exceptionally hard in terms of transformation but have also made some blunders.

I also agree that just continually warning slow-moving sports administered by dinosaurs is not the way to go.

But the kind of mass social engineering that Mbalula is wanting – teams that are just 9% White – can only be achieved by government.

Last year, when the Springboks and Proteas were involved in world cups, Mbalula was right behind those teams, quite happy to gloss over their obvious failings when it came to transformation, even after their failed campaigns. Perhaps he didn’t want to appear rude for all the VIP treatment rugby and cricket have lavished upon the notorious party animal.

But now the ANC is set to lose many votes in the elections later this year so a grand gesture is needed, something to distract, something to shift the pressure elsewhere, and Mbalula is the master of that.

After Mbalula agreed to become the sports minister, allegedly at the behest of the Guptas, in 2010, he said all the right things about how he was going to make sure transformation was focused at grassroots level and how national teams were the wrong place to intervene.

I liked and supported Mbalula for the first couple of years, until I started wondering “When is he actually going to do any of this great stuff he’s promising?” however entertaining his often baffling press conferences were.

As some of my Black colleagues in the media have pointed out, Mbalula has failed to produce one meaningful transformation project in the six years he’s been in office. His tenure will be remembered for grandiose speeches, his fawning over Floyd Mayweather and Beyonce, and the millions he has spent on dismal awards banquets. By one calculation, he spent four times the Olympics budget for the South African team.

The current situation in which our predominantly White sports only choose their Black African players from a few select schools is not going to change unless government is willing to commit the millions of rands that sports bodies don’t have into building facilities in the townships, never mind rural areas.

If you are going to bring a sport to the masses, then the facilities have to be there to match the opportunity.

But that would involve actual work and, heaven forbid, Mbalula might have to skip the odd glitzy party with all its selfie opportunities.

Sure, many South African sports deserve censure for their maladministration and slowness to transform, but when is Mbalula going to take responsibility for his utter failure to produce anything worthwhile in his capacity as Minister of Sport?

 

Pilanesberg National Park 0

Posted on February 15, 2016 by Ken

 

 

 

 

 

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Some of the beautiful pride of 10 Lion seen on Tshepe Drive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pilanesberg National Park has open grasslands and plenty of soothing aquatic habitats, but, driving around the fourth largest conserved area in South Africa, one cannot help but notice the violent, almost cataclysmic events that shaped the spectacular scenery.

Pilanesberg is centred on the crater of an extinct volcano with its mountains being a series of concentric rings of igneous rock i.e. solidified lava. The forces of erosion, operating on cracks and faults, have then created a broad valley running from the south-west of the park to the north-east.

The fascinating geology of Pilanesberg gives rise to diverse vegetation, which in turn produces great birding.

Although much of the park comprises broadleaved woodland and open grassland, which contains fewer birds, there are areas of thornveld and its rich insect life, as well as some of the special birds that call Acacias home.

These thornveld endemics can be tricky to spot, but the Manyane campsite is set in a stand of typical Kalahari Thornveld, dominated by stately Acacias.

So walking around the campsite always provides plenty of birds at close quarters and on this occasion, the highlight was a Burntnecked Eremomela which hung around for a long time in a thorn tree close to our site.

Crested and Swainson’s Francolin, Redbilled Hornbill, Yellowfronted Canary, Goldenbreasted Bunting, Redwinged Starling and Whitebrowed Scrub Robin were also friendly neighbours, along with a Blackbacked Puffback and a Brubru amongst a host of species in a bird party in the tree above our camp.

Arrowmarked Babblers would move determinedly through the camp, grabbing breakfast tidbits, while a business of Banded Mongoose would also come foraging through camp, making their delightful purring noises. Longtailed Shrike was a visitor to the Acacia trees as well, which often also held colourful Southern Tree Agama. Chacma Baboons were less welcome intruders.

The Tlou Drive, pretty much in the centre of the park, goes through classic Acacia thickets in areas of open grassland, both short and long. In other words great bushveld country and ideal habitat for the beautiful Violeteared Waxbill.

Being August, the bush was dry and brown, so a Violeteared Waxbill with its dazzling mixture of blue, violet and red offset against chestnut, really stands out when the bird is strolling around on the ground on an exposed culvert.

In the same area, a Crimsonbreasted Shrike and a Pied Barbet were also hanging around, so there was a sudden, startling burst of colour amongst the otherwise drab winter tones of the Tlou Drive.

A Steenbok was hiding in a little grove of trees and African Elephant were also around.

The Mankwe Dam is the largest water body in Pilanesberg and an ideal place to spot the mammals and birds that are attracted to the water. There were lots of Blue Wildebeest and Giraffe (including, unfortunately, a deceased one) on this occasion, as well as Nile Crocodile.

The Hippo Loop is one of the better roads from which to explore Mankwe Dam, allowing one to get very close to the north-western shore.

There, where the last of the previous summer’s water was draining away, leaving soft mud perfect for waders in its retreat, were some strange long-billed birds.

Heavily marked with brown, black and buff, there were four of them probing deeply and rhythmically into the mud. It took a while to identify them because the only African Snipe I had seen previously were single birds either flying over a wetland, doing their characteristic drumming display, or crouching in thick vegetation.

But apparently they are known for coming out and foraging in the open when water levels recede, exposing the soft mud that contains the worms that are their favourite prey.

A Tawny Eagle and a few Greater Striped Swallow were flying about, while a Chinspot Batis was investigating the bushes.

The other water birds present were Great White Egret, Yellowbilled Duck, Reed Cormorant, Egyptian Goose and African Fish Eagle.

Tlodi Dam is a much smaller water body close to Manyane Camp and Pearlbreasted Swallow is often seen here collecting mud from the water’s edge for its nest.

There are usually Hippopotamus in the dam as well and plenty of Southern Masked Weaver starting to get into breeding plumage.

Heading north from Manyane will bring you to the Malatse Dam, which has an excellent hide that allows you to get close to the action. With the hide facing east, it’s a good place to spend the late afternoon, only about 9km from camp, and the sort of place to spot exciting stuff.

African Spoonbill, African Darter and Dabchick were out on the water, while a Threebanded Plover was dashing about and a Natal Francolin was right below the hide window.

The Tshwene Drive links Manyane camp with the centre of the park and Mankwe Dam, and goes through often tall grassland with thorny and bushy thickets.

This is ideal country for the Browncrowned Tchagra and sure enough one landed on top of a bush, vigorously wagged its tail and then dived into a thicket as we possibly disturbed an imminent flight display.

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Marico Flycatcher are common, friendly inhabitants of the Acacia savanna in Pilanesberg

The area also produced Blackchested Prinia, Marico Flycatcher and Lilacbreasted Roller.

Ntshwe Drive is one of the gateways to the western portion of the park and is rather scenic with trees and koppies.

White Rhinoceros, accompanied by Redbilled Oxpecker, were present as was a solitary Redeyed Bulbul, which was much more secretive than its common cousin, the Blackeyed. Kalahari Robin was also present but inconspicuous.

The Tshepe Drive also heads towards Mankwe Dam, approaching from the south-east of the park and is well-vegetated and full of game. Having spotted Tsessebe and Springbok, we came across a beautiful Lioness and then, shortly after she sauntered towards the road, a nine-strong pride of youthful, virile-looking males followed her.

Sightings list

Helmeted Guineafowl

Crested Francolin

Redbilled Hornbill

Arrowmarked Babbler

Forktailed Drongo

Common Myna

Longtailed Shrike

Longbilled Crombec

Swainson’s Francolin

Whitebrowed Scrub Robin

Burntnecked Eremomela

Impala

Pied Crow

Vervet Monkey

Cape Turtle Dove

Redfaced Mousebird

Warthog

Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill

Southern Masked Weaver

Blackshouldered Kite

Greater Kudu

Marico Flycatcher

Browncrowned Tchagra

Grey Lourie

Blue Wildebeest

Blackeyed Bulbul

Giraffe

Chinspot Batis

White Rhinoceros

Redbilled Oxpecker

Redeyed Bulbul

Kalahari Robin

Crimsonbreasted Shrike

Sabota Lark

Southern Boubou

Slender Mongoose

Pied Barbet

Chestnutvented Tit Babbler

Fiscal Flycatcher

Violeteared Waxbill

African Elephant

Speckled Mousebird

Steenbok

Groundscraper Thrush

Glossy Starling

Blackchested Prinia

Rock Pigeon

Blackbacked Puffback

Brubru

Pearlbreasted Swallow

Hippopotamus

Blacksmith Plover

Blue Waxbill

Tsessebe

Lion

Springbok

Crested Barbet

Whitebreasted Cormorant

Grey Heron

Greater Striped Swallow

Tawny Eagle

Laughing Dove

Banded Mongoose

Yellowfronted Canary

Chacma Baboon

African Spoonbill

African Darter

Dabchick

Natal Francolin

Threebanded Plover

Familiar Chat

Kurrichane Thrush

Neddicky

Grey Hornbill

Lilacbreasted Roller

Nile Crocodile

Great White Egret

Yellowbilled Duck

Reed Cormorant

Serrated Hinged Terrapin

Egyptian Goose

African Snipe

African Fish Eagle

Goldenbreasted Bunting

Southern Tree Agama

Redwinged Starling

 

 

 

 

Marabastad & Laudium cricket: a community surviving the shameful past 0

Posted on January 08, 2015 by Ken

The forced removals that destroyed the culturally-diverse Marabastad community count amongst the most shameful incidents in Pretoria history, separating the Black, Indian and Coloured communities that lived in the area.  They all played cricket together in an association presided over by the famous Mr Sooboo and in the mid-1930s there were numerous teams playing like Azads, Old Boys, Navyugas, Sheffield, Rangers, Foresters, Burma Lads, Districts, Olympians Kismet and Clydes.

 

But these teams were largely mono-cultural, with Azads comprising mainly Gujaratis, Rangers being a Coloured team, Burma Lads made up of Tamils and Districts largely comprising Surtees. However race never played a part in sport as competitions were mixed.  Black cricket played at Bantulie was curtailed with the forced removal of Blacks to Atteridgeville.  But by then the Group Areas Act had further condemned Indians to Laudium and Coloureds to Eersterust.

 

Facilities in Marabastad comprised only two fields which were used for soccer and cricket. One had a grass pitch and the other a matting wicket which was known as the Razor’s Edge because of the rough sand and stones that cut up anyone foolhardy enough to leave his feet. The uneven pitch was bouncy and dangerous and Dhiraj Soma (Sapa), perhaps the Father of Sport in Marabastad, once had his front teeth knocked out batting on it.Teams from the Marabastad region, including Bantulie (the current site of the Tech grounds), where Black cricket was centred, were selected to play against sides from Johannesburg and the Western Transvaal, as well as Brits.  Even the great Basil d’Oliveira turned out to represent Northern Transvaal in an interprovincial game.

 

By then Marabastad had all but closed down and Laudium had become its successor for cricket.  The complex history of Marabastad cricket included a mass folding of clubs in the early 1970s, with the survivors, Foresters, Sheffield and Burma Lads, going to play in the SACBOC leagues, which was not a simple task as it meant travelling to places like Bosmont, Newclare, Lenasia, Ermelo, Potchefstroom and Germiston.

 

Rashid Varachia’s attempt at unifying cricket in 1976 also failed as Foresters and Rangers initially joined the White leagues but pulled out after a couple of years, with various on-field incidents reflecting racial undertones. It was clear true integration was still far off.  In 1975, Foresters were allowed to use the ground in Laudium as their home base, but in 1978 they pulled out of the league and the venue became derelict. Burma Lads and Shefield continued playing in the SACBOC league.

 

It wasn’t until 1984 when an attempt to rekindle cricket was made. Cricket resurfaced after a few years in the doldrums. Although the area was given a turf sports ground, the facilities remained ill-prepared with long grass and cooking flour used to mark the pitch and stones for boundaries!.  New teams were formed: Cavaliers, Delfos, Trishul, and Kent. Brits, Rangers, Districts and Sheffield re-surfaced. But that only lasted a couple of years before fizzling out again as facilities were non-existent.

 

After the SA tour to India during 1991 interest in cricket was renewed.  A further attempt was made in 1991 to rekindle cricket in Laudium, by Nilesh Mistry and Harry Karsen, with Delfos, Foresters, Leeds (ex-Sheffield), Kent, Brits Al-Amien and Districts all playing a part in what was to become the Sunday League.

In 1998, unity talks with the Northerns Cricket Union, saw Laudium, one of the previously disadvantaged teams, nominated to play in the Northerns Premier League.  That was always going to be a huge challenge and someone needed to guide them through these turbulent waters. That someone was Aniel Soma and by 1999 he had masterminded the participation at the highest level by deserving players as well as development of the new Oval in Laudium and the upgrading of the derelict building to a clubhouse to meet the demands of cricket.

 

When Soma was a young player, techniques were learnt mainly by listening to radio commentary, But professional coaches were brought into Laudium to assist, like Anton Ferreira and Gerhard Maree. The township south-west of the CBD can now be considered a cricketing stronghold, having hosted matches in the ICC Women’s World Cup in 2005 and India A tour matches, but it has taken a lot of effort and determination to achieve that.

 

The current team, evenly split between Black and Indian players, will continue to honour the tradition of great Marabastad and Laudium figures like the disciplined Arthur Karodia, the deft Eddie Naidoo, the brute Dhiraj Soma (Sapa), the fearless Viggie Naidoo, the guile of Jerry Makan, the stylish touches of  Rashid Bhikha, the cunningness of G Pillay, the power of Solly May, the all-round capability of Julian Weideman and the pace of Ameen Nagdee.  How can we ever forget the likes of Chandoo Ramjee, Mohamed Mia, Dhanraj Soma, Ramesh Nathoo, Hira Soma, Nithia Pillay,  Ebrahim Ebrahim, Ragie Moodley, Gopal Chetty, Deenen Padiachy, Hama Ahmed or Yusuf Ismail, Deshi Bhaktawer, Yogendra Naran, Gaffar Ahmed and their contribution to our cricket.

 

We pay tribute to those who paved the way.

 

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    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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