A touching experience as SA football stars come to town  

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For columnMikia Kalati

I was host to a high-powered delegation of South Africans last weekend, and among them were former Platinum Stars Football Club chairman Advocate Ratanang Nke, Kick-Off magazine writer Ernest Fakude, Geoffrey Morulane from Tlou Segolela Sports Development and Platinum Stars players Tlou Segolela, and Vuyo Mere. Lesotho-born former Jomo Cosmos midfielder Katleho Loke was also part of the touring squad.

The group was in Lesotho as part of their Community Outreach Programmes.

While I don’t want to use this platform to talk about things that are personal, I feel this time it’s worth sharing the experience which might help change the lives of many kids in our country.

I had doubts that we would pull-it off as it was a bit difficult to bring certain big institutions on board.

However, the experience was so touching I shed some tears in the end.

I never thought the project would bring such happiness to the kids who managed to meet these top players, as well as having their photos taken alongside them.

Since becoming a sports journalist, and my short stint working for the Lesotho Football Association, I have experienced a lot of good things regarding the beautiful game.

However, what I witnessed at the weekend will go down as a very special moment in my life for the simple fact that I was involved from day one when the project was being planned.

I saw the good side of these players, who have been doing such noble deeds for years as part of an initiative to give back to communities that have helped them become the football stars that they are.

Mere is the captain at Platinum Stars and I witnessed all those leadership qualities doing television and radio interviews with him as well as addressing children at Leqele and Loretto Primary schools, as well as SOS Children’s Home.

The same goes for Segolela who is a very humble young man who has gone through many trying times as a footballer and shared that experience with the kids.

The former Orlando Pirates winger donated a soccer kit at Leqele Primary School and pledged blankets to SOS Children’s Village, which will be handed over in the coming weeks.

The fact that these players, and their team, left their country for the trip to Lesotho, on its own, meant a lot to the kids and is no doubt, a humble gesture that we should cherish forever as a nation.

Having Advocate Nke along made the visit even bigger as he is a father-figure to these players.

Platinum Stars enjoyed a lot of success under his leadership, beating big guns such as Orlando Pirates, Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs to silverware. I suggest our administrators learn  from the sacrifice made by this man who also donated a soccer kit to Loretto during the Friday to Sunday visit.

Like I said, it was a very special moment for everyone involved, as well as the schools which were lucky enough to get such a visit.

It’s not every day that ordinary people like those kids get the chance to meet such big football stars in their own backyard.

I have to say, there is a lot that can be learnt from the project as our teams should also try to work with their communities on income-generating projects.

I guess this can be another way of teaching our players that they are role models and should act as leaders of change no-matter where they could be, while also speaking out about the  importance of education, and steering clear of drugs and other social ills.

At the end, I was very happy that not only did the touring group donate two soccer kits, they also empowered the children by teaching them about the importance of education, respect and also encouraging them to dream big.

I must also thank the Lesotho Football Association, through their secretary general Mokhosi Mohapi, as they managed to come on board and gave accommodation to the touring team at their Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena premises.

We all know sport can be used as a tool to bring change as it has happen in many countries, and I have no doubt this visit would do exactly that to these children and the local community that had the chance to interact with the touring party.

 

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