New sport facility hopes to bring unity

Dignitaries lined up to officially open the Philipp Lahm sports ground in Philippi.

Situated between two locations, Philippi and Better Life, Ithemba Labantu Lutheran community centre is using sport to bridge the gap between genders, promote physical health and also to fight crime.

Sports such as soccer, netball and cricket are the most popular in the townships. On Saturday February 16, the community centre opened a new sports facility that will benefit the community of Philippi.

The NGO said it works to improve education and create opportunities for children in low-income areas. Set in a rehabilitated seasonal flood water retention pond that is dry for most of the year, the youth sports park is to be known as the Philipp Lahm sports ground and is connected to the NGO’s youth centre.

According to Ithemba Labantu’s spokesperson, Reverend Otto Kohlstock, the project is a ground-breaking example of the innovative use of this kind of under-utilised public land.

He said it will include new measures to manage the water that will still need to be drained from the surrounding urban area during periods of high rainfall.

The centre also aims to improve health among the youth and encourages them to play sport and take their education seriously.

The centre’s sport field was named after former German soccer team captain, Philipp Lahm.

Known back then as Pitbull, Lahm was happy to show young people a few of his tricks.

He joined the two teams, South Africa and Germany that competed on the day with Germany winning the day by two goals to nil.

Mr Kohlstock said the ground will develop and bring happiness to people of the area. “We are extremely happy with the new development.

“We are happy because we had to wait for seven years to have this facility. We had to raised R14 million but luckily a couple from Germany, Margarete and her husband Klaus, raised the money. All the buildings we have here is because of them.

“We are grateful to them,” he said.

He said the 400 children of Ithemba Labantu now have a safe place to play.

“The field will also see local teams playing there but through arrangement with Ithemba Labantu.

“This will benefit all. We are also happy because the space was filthy, with a stench, rats and mosquitoes but now it’s clean. It was a health hazard.

“We will allow local teams to play there but with proper arrangements,” he said.

He also thanked the Philipp Lahm Foundation that sponsored their teams.

The volunteers working to provide the best athletes at the centre have welcomed the set-up. They said it could produce better people in the community.

The facility coaches said it will make their job much easier.

Zithobile Jojo, who coached Team SA on the day, said it has been difficult to get proper training sessions for their teams. He said with the new facility, children will also be encouraged to be serious about their respective sporting codes.

Another coach Zolisa Ngquva said the facility will produce not only sportsmen and sportswomen of note, but good citizens too. He was thankful to all those who contributed to the facility.

Ithemba Labantu has been operating in the area for decades, serving the people of Philippi through the generosity of a range of sponsors.