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 Article and photos by Cpl Tebogo Kekana, AD ASTRA Magazine

The South African National Defence Force’s sport teams have shown that they can generate the fusion power to reach across racial barriers and keep the learning through fun alive at the Despatch Sport Ground, Eastern Cape, on 16 February 2016.

The primary school learners, which were selected by the Eastern Cape Department of Education, were introduced to the joy of sport and their skills in rugby, soccer, volleyball, cricket and netball were enhanced as part of the Armed Forces Day Celebrations. According to Esethu Keli, an eleven-year-old rugby player from J. N. Tulwana Primary School, sport goes beyond the field; it even helps one concentrate in class and makes one not to be lazy. “I love cricket, I looked up to Makhaya Ntini and AB de Villiers, but I also enjoy long distance running, athletes like Elana Meyer and Bruce Fordyce are spectacular to watch and admire”.

Brig Gen Mlindeni Sibango wished the learners a fruitful sporting week

While the little ones sweat and puffed on the sport ground, it was clear from the teachers that they were also happy to form part of the excitement that was felt in the Port Elizabeth air. Teacher, Mandisa Bangani-Boyce from Alex Jayiya Primary School in Nobuhle, Uitenhage said that she also plays netball and has seen how it has changed her life. “Here in the Eastern Cape, a lot still needs to be done with regard to sport, this goes well beyond the country's "big three" (rugby, soccer and cricket), here, our children are quite good when it comes to Athletics, Swimming, Boxing, Long distance running, Motorsports, Cycling, Tennis, Watersports, and Hockey. We thank the soldiers for choosing to spend the day with us and gauge how far we are, we have learnt a lot and we strive on for excellence”.

Judging from the enthusiasm at the grounds, and the noise, it sounds as though Hezekiel Sepeng, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, Hestrie Cloete and many others will have a run for their money when these young talents finally hit the international arena. Teacher, Mzimkhulu Solani, from Ashton Gontshi Primary School in Kwanobuhle, said, “Swimming is one sport where South Africa’s youth has really made its mark in top international events such as the Olympic Games and the World Championships. Whether you swim to compete in races or for enjoyment, whether you're old or young, the Nelson Mandela Bay offers you an almost unlimited buffet of different swimming options, we are proud because our learners take these opportunities seriously and want to invest their time in something fruitful and keep active. Maybe we can one day compete with the soldiers and win. We have the future Ryk Neethling, Penny Heyns, Roland Schoeman and Natalie du Toit somewhere here”.

Esethu Keli (mustard Jersey) wants to fly the South African flag high one day

Chief Petty Officer Leon Ontong, Southern Military Police Region in Cape Town says that these clinics are important, there is no telling what one of these kids can become. “I would love to hear a success story one day, someone saying that because of the Defence Force’s visit to a school, a life or a few have been changed for the betterment of this country. They already have the basics, if they can build on it, from the grassroots level, our Bafana Bafana can be saved”.

Speaking of soccer, the hot weather didn’t stop 13-year-old Asakhe Boltina to ask his teammates to call him the midfield wizard, as the famous Doctor Khumalo is referred to. “Watch the space, like Pule "Ace" Ntsoelengoe, who made his mark both in South Africa and the world, I will follow in their footsteps.

If exercising be the order of the day, so be it

The Kwanobuhle and Khayelitsha teachers and learners clapped hands when Brig Gen Mlindeni Sibango, Director Physical Training, Sport and Recreation mentioned that there are socio economic projects that the Defence Force, in partnership with other stakeholders is currently involved in. One of those, being a series of sporting programmes with specific focus on the youth, because they are the future leaders. “We will be handling approximately one thousand school children in two sessions per day. This is an investment, which hopefully, will yield excellent results in the future, we also trust that your interest will be enhanced as we continue this week. Your vision as individuals, and as a collective is to make South Africa proud by shining in the international sporting events and bring back as many medals as you can.”


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