Nyanga Local Football Association (LFA) is back in action, despite no spectators being allowed as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.
The Nyanga stadium provides a safe haven for the youngsters who come there on weekends.
Here they can escape life’s challenges – the rogue cars speeding down the road, hunger at home and falling in with the wrong crowd – and be part of a bigger, better and positive movement through sport.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa eased the lockdown regulations a fortnight ago, it allowed for the continuation of local sports, which meant the Nyanga LFA could kick-off again.
Thousands of young footballers from under-7 to the seniors, played in league matches at the stadium on Monday, as the country marked National Women’s Day.
They were under the guidance of their coaches and the LFA coordinators.
Many arrived at the stadium very early, some even still wearing their pyjamas before they changed into their soccer club’s gear. And, they were fed a meal.
While Vukani snapped a few photographs, Nyanga LFA president, Sibongile Mgxekeni, shared some of the valuable history behind the league.
The Nyanga LFA is one of the oldest in the townships and since 1966 it has produced numerous great players.
It boasts over 34 clubs this season.
“It has been assisting the community in terms of reducing the crime in our township since you know Nyanga has the highest rate of crime. A day we have more than 1 500 kids playing soccer every weekend,” he said.
Mgxekeni said the aim is to build role models while keeping the youngsters away off the streets.
“We are trying our best to keep these kids away from drugs and crime by playing soccer, but most of their clubs struggle because the club owners spend their own money to maintain these clubs without any financial backing or sponsors. We also need assistance from anyone that is willing to assist to maintain these players so that they can continue playing football,” he said.
Mgxekeni admits that it is difficult playing football without spectators, but in order to curb the spread of the Covid-19, they have to adhere to the protocols.
“People love football especially in the townships. In this new normal the biggest challenge will be keeping the spectators away. The teams are also finding it hard to retain players, it’s a struggle,” he said.
Mgxekeni touched on women’s football, following Hotspurs Ladies 7-1 win over Greenlovers in the Regional Women’s League, at the Nyanga Stadium, on Monday.
“Women’s football, especially in this pandemic, is taking a toll. After not playing for so long, they stop training and coming to matches. The challenge now is how to find ways to keep them motivated.
“Even though football might be stopped for a while, it’s coming back and we will eventually get to a normal state. Well as normal as it can get. The game between Greenlovers and Hotspurs Ladies showed ladies who are passionate about the game and love to play. It was very competitive. These ladies don’t play,” he said.
Nyanga LFA results:Under-12 division: Jabula Brothers drew 2-2 against Eyethu and Cebe FC won 1-0 over Black Swallows FC. Under-14 section: Jabula Brothers won 2-1 over Eyethu, Everton won 1-0 against Wolves, Black Swallow won 3-0 over Cebe FC. Under-16 division: Eyethu won 1-0 over Jabula Brothers, Everton thumped Wolves 5-0.
Under-18 section: Jabula won 3-1 over Eyethu.