The second edition of the ABC Motsepe League under the auspices of the South African Football association, and contested by 144 soccer teams from all nine South African provinces, ended at the weekend following a week of gruelling play-offs in Kimberly, Northern Cape.
The Motsepe Foundation funds the league as part of its commitment to assist in the sustainable community and economic development of the country through the development of sports.
The main objective of the funding is to drive soccer development at the lower levels, and also help the South African Football Association in achieving its vision of building the national team, Bafana Bafana into a formidable force.
The league is focused on developing youth players and this has been built into the rules of the tournament. Each team must use a minimum of five youth players in their line-up which means no fewer than 720 youth players played in the tournament this year.
The support from the Motsepe Foundation has ensured that these youngsters escape the social ills that so commonly plague the youth in urban and rural areas alike. At the same time, the Foundation is also aware that sport, and particularly soccer which is the sport most played by the under privileged in South Africa, can alleviate the devastating negative effects of poverty.
The South African Football Association has stated that their vision for the development of soccer in the country is predicated on the power of sports to help the youth grow socially, emotionally, and economically, and that by playing soccer, children learn respect, responsibility, and accountability.
It is against this background that the Motsepe Foundation has partnered with SAFA in empowering these young citizens.
The finalists in the week long World Cup style play offs gain automatic promotion to the National First Division, which gets them within touching distance of the biggest prize for South African soccer teams, the Premier Soccer League.
Last year’s winners and runners up Cape Town All Stars and Highlands Park, acquitted themselves well at the NFD level and competed for the top four spots in that league – and a chance to play off for promotion.
This year’s finalists were Mbombela United from Mpumalanga and Mthatha Bucks from the Eastern Capee, both economically depressed regions. The R1-m top prize and R500 000 second prize will go a long way towards providing financial relief for the teams, with R200 000 and R100 000 from the prize money respectively going to a development community project.
For the players, the opportunity to break out of the poverty cycle is perhaps the greatest reward. Their communities will benefit from the economic opportunities that top class soccer brings. Some of them will no doubt be offered professional opportunities immediately.