World Cup Whizzkids
Sanelisiwe Mthembu, 16, a learner at Edendale Technical College, can’t hide her excitement. It’s all in the smile and the hip hop walk – “the soccer was the best thing about it” she enthuses! She and her 6 team mates have just returned from an exhilarating 11 days in Rio where they competed in FIFA’s 2014 Football for Hope Festival against 31 other teams from across the world. The festival was an official event of the 2014 Brazil World Cup.
Nokulunga Mdluli, Xolani Molefe (Siyahlomula School in Edendale), Fisani Mtambo (ML Sultan), Sphesihle Dlamini (KwaPata) and Sandry Dlamini (Siqongweni Secondary School, who was not available for the photo shoot), when asked what was the highlight for them agreed that, besides the soccer, Sugar Loaf Mountain and the “Jesus Statue” will remain embedded in their memories. Young South African Silindele Mthembu was the young Leader of the team who accompanied them, and who is employed by Whizzkids United as a life skills coach.
These young soccer stars form part of the WhizzKids United network, an organisation based in Edendale that focuses on soccer for youth development. Their coach Stefan Kunze has been with the organisation in South Africa since 2009, until now based in Durban. He is incredibly proud of this Pietermaritzburg team and says: “These kids really made their community and the whole of South Africa proud. We put in a great performance during the football tournament, on and off the pitch. For all of us, and especially for the kids, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and an amazing learning opportunity. These kids have the potential to be strong leaders in their community.”
In Rio, the team finished 4th out of 8 in their group.” They missed the KO stage of the tournament, but their performance was really good. They played well together as a team and were one of the best teams regarding fair play, which was important during this tournament. Off the pitch they were incredibly popular with the other teams. Many people came to us to tell us how impressed they were by the friendliness, discipline and attitude of our team. They received standing ovations for their cultural performance which all delegations did on stage.
When did they start training together? “ said Kunze.
Selection of the six youngsters took place at the end of February and preparations started in early March, with twice weekly meetings, once for football training and once to prepare them for the other challenges of the trip (cultural performance, getting to know Brazil, fundraising, intercultural understanding etc…)
Highlights, according to the enthusiastic travellers were many and included : visiting the World Cup Quarterfinal at the Maracana Stadium (Germany vs France); interacting with youth delegations from all across the world; competing in the football tournament, using FIFA’s Football3 methodology, which enforces Fair Play; sightseeing tour to Sugarloaf mountain; the cultural performances of all 32 delegations
Stefan Kunze is in the process of relocating to Pietermaritzburg and looks forward to adapting to a new Midlands lifestyle, where he will continue to bring hope, happiness and health to young people through a love of soccer.
Keep up to date with the Whizzkids organisation on www.whizzkids.org.za where you can enjoy personal accounts of this experience.