Category Archives: Makana Local Football Association

Soccer an Expression of Love and Hope

Soccer an Expression of Love and Hope

by Ayanda Kota

The President’s Address to the Makana Local Football Association, Zondani Townhall, Grahamstown, Saturday 9 June 2012

James Kiawoin a Liberian first-year student at Colorado College recently wrote:

George Weah and his colleagues represented hope for Liberia during the peak of the civil war and bragging rights for Liberians whose identities were pegged with the brutal scenes relayed on the international media. Despite the financial hardship that plagued the nation, Liberians would flood the national stadium to watch their team play and many people were glued to their radios on the weekends to join in the spectacle that occurred in Monrovia. After every match, the city would not sleep because people would be up all nights in bars celebrating the unending victories. There were countless songs and T-shirts made to celebrate the team’s heroic performances and every Liberian (no exaggeration) knew the structure of the team. The team made it possible for Liberians to put aside their differences for ninety minutes and proclaim the greatness of their nation. The players received grand welcomes every time they came for international duties or won an away game.

Football has a great capacity to lift the spirits of the people. Around the world oppressed people have taken great heart from their football teams and the sport has some of its most dedicated participants and supporters amongst oppressed communities. There are many men and women from very poor communities, like the shacks of Rio and Sao Paulo, that have made their mark on the global game.We all know how important football was to the activists imprisoned on Robben Island. It was about exercise, about keeping their minds and bodies sharp and, we are told, a way for the different political factions to learn to work together.

Football is also played in Palestine. Mahmoud Sarsak was a rising star of Palestinian football until his arrest by the Israeli state. He has since been held without trial or charge. He is one of a handful of Palestinian prisoners who have rejected a deal that ended a mass hunger strike on 14 May. Under the deal, Israel agreed to end solitary confinement for 19 prisoners – held in isolation for up to 10 years – and lifted a ban on family visits for prisoners from Gaza. He is still on hunger strike and is reported to be close to death. Tonight we remember Mahmoud Sarsak. Tonight we condemn SAFA for their silence on the heroic struggle of our comrade in Palestine.

I found this biography of Diegeo Maradona on the internet:

Diego Armando Maradona was born on October 30, 1961 in Villa Fiorito, Argentina. During his childhood in the shacks of Villa Fiorito outside Buenos Aires, Maradona dreamed of becoming a great soccer player. His family was poor. His father, a bricklayer and factory worker, struggled to provide for three boys, five girls, and his stay-at-home wife. Poverty was not a deterrent to success, however. Maradona was given his first soccer ball by his cousin, Beto Zarate, on his third birthday. Young Diego slept with the ball that night. By the age of nine, he had learned to play soccer, and came to the attention of Francis Cornejo, coach of the Cebollitas or Little Onions – the youth team of Argentinos Jrs. While he was with the Little Onions, they won 140 straight games. In 1972, he led Los Cebollitas to a junior championship. The team gave him a high compliment – jersey number 10 – the same number worn by the legendary soccer star, Pele. From 1976 to 1980, the teenage Maradona played for Argentinos Juniors. Before the end of the first season, the team became Maradona’s team, and the stadiums were always full. The Argentinos Juniors were winning against the best teams, and his future looked limitless.

Maradonna was not the only boy born to a working class or poor family who found that football opened his world. Carlos Taves was born in shack in Argentina to a poor family. Benni McCarthy was born on the Cape flats in Cape Town. The Cape Flats is associated with drugs and gangsterism. It is one of the dumping places that are used to turn poor people into waste and rubbish in a racist and capitalist society.

But look what has come out of such places! Look what has come out of these places because of love and hope! Look how these boys have flourished because of the love and sacrifice of their families, because of local football clubs and their own will to make something of their lives!

It is a great tragedy that SAFA fails to properly support families and communities as we use football to build our communities and to give our young people something to look forward to and to be part of. Football has been captured by capital in South Africa. We need to resist this. The beautiful game should belong to the people. The money that comes in must go to development and not private profit.

Tonight we celebrate football in Grahamstown. We celebrate each of the 24 teams in our local league. We celebrate our unity. We celebrate our organisation. We celebrate all the young people that have committed themselves to their teams, all their hard work and all their energy. We celebrate the love and hope and dedication that has bought you all this far.

The great African revolutionary Frantz Fanon said that “Every generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it.” Our mission goes beyond building and sustaining a vibrant football league in Grahamstown. Our mission includes building a Grahamstown, and Eastern Cape and a country in which every young person can flourish and grow. Football is just one part of this. I salute you all. Let us enjoy tonight, enjoy our football and strengthen ourselves for the struggles ahead.