From the Atlantic Seaboard suburb of Camps Bay to the temporary settlement of Blikkiesdorp, about 300 young children from 14 clubs in Cape Town converged at UWC Sports Stadium to launch She-Bobo, a soccer league exclusively for girls Under-8 and Under-10.
The initiative, started by the Department for Institutional Advancement in conjunction with the Department of Sport Administration and various other stakeholders, was born out of the realisation that there are few opportunities for girls younger than 10 to participate in competitive soccer, hampering their grassroots development.
But, as UWC Director of Sport Mandla Gagayi explained when he welcomed the parents and their children on Saturday, it’s not just about children playing football. “It’s about introducing kids to UWC and allowing the little ones to use football as a vehicle to get into the university and get their degrees,” he said.
“And for those talented enough to go all the way and become the likes of Thembi Kgatlana and Noxolo Cesane, it will be up to you (parents) to motivate them to play football and study because a professional football life is only 10 years. But a degree will carry the person for the rest of their lives.”
South African Football Association (SAFA) vice-president Bennett Bailey agreed that She-Bobo is essential as it connects football with education. “So, when a youngster starts playing at this age at a university, they will connect immediately with the venue they are playing at, and that venue is at an education institution. They will put that as part of their growth plan to go to that place because the environment lends itself to education. This initiative inculcates at an entry level of a youngster that education is important for growth. Therefore, SAFA has no hesitation in endorsing it,” said Bailey.
UWC, in conjunction with corporate partners such as Fieka, Peninsula Beverages, KFM and Cape Community Newspapers, provided playing kits and equipment, coaching workshops in the week leading to the event, as well as referees, transport, meals and refreshments.
She-Bobo coordinator and UWC spokesperson Gasant Abarder explained the thinking behind the project: “We believe that creating a platform for junior girl footballers is an investment in young girl children. We want to be a game changer as a catalyst for social change and a conduit to the girl child realising her full potential – from excelling on the playing field to eventually graduating from UWC as a well-rounded citizen of the world. At UWC, we know how talented girl footballers are in a league of their own. We want to be their springboard for a whole new world that connects possibilities”.
Parents and coaches loved the She-Bobo, and said it was long overdue.
Adrienne Short, a mother from Bellville, said: “I think it's absolutely brilliant. They (UWC) have filled the gap that has been long awaited. It’s a cool idea as it helps develop the ladies from a young age so they can be part of Banyana Banyana one day”.
Wayne Davids from Matroosfontein added: “It’s an amazing opportunity for the young girls, especially from our community, because there are limited things to do. This will expand their horizon because they will take what they have learned here to schools. And you never know who can be picked to go further from here. They are enjoying themselves and making me feel like a child again”.
See gallery of the She-Bobo at UWC Football Festival below. All images, courtesy Ruvan Boshoff - UWC Media.