Dream makers, Orlando Pirates go ‘out to play’ with Diepsloot primary kids

Certain days are etched in young minds forever, and for 60 young Diepsloot community footballers, dreams came true last week - the day when Orlando Pirates came to Musenga Vhadzimu Primary School for a soccer development clinic - held as a CSI initiative for football players from four community schools. When Orlando Pirates’ 1st team walked into the school in a procession of red and black, the excitement of the young footballers, aged 11 – 13 erupted into a festival of sound to welcome in their sporting heroes. Diepsloot is an informal settlement in the north of Johannesburg, faced by the challenge of not having enough recreational facilities. With football being the most played sport in the community, the presence of OPFC was overwhelming. This wasn’t just any team; this was the real thing. “We had the full pro team out on the football field with the kids, as well as the entire technical team,” says Thandi Merafe, Head of Orlando Pirates FC Media and Supporter’s Club who pulled out all the stops to make this a special day to remember. “It’s a dream come true for these kids to get to see OP in person, and we hope that today will structure their lives and leave a positive impact knowing that professional players care, and have taken time out of a hectic schedule to enjoy the day with them,” said Merafe. While the heroes graced the school’s football fields to teach the young players technical skills, mid-fielder, Augustine “Gaga” Mahlonoko spotted a boy battling to kick one of the 40 new adidas soccer balls - he was only wearing slip-on shoes. Gaga took off his football boots and gave them to the youngster to wear. “It was a great moment of individual generosity that we just happened to spot on the side-lines and it wrapped up what “giving back” truly means on a day like this,” says Bob Maphosa Sports Marketing Manager at adidas Africa. “We took the boy’s shoe size and went to get him a brand new pair of adidas Copa’s – it’s a moment we won’t forget because we received the widest grin we’ve ever seen,” smiles Maphosa who added that the message of the day from adidas was not only to learn from the players, but to listen to school teachers. “Education is key on development days like these. We want the kids from our most disadvantaged communities to put academics first so that they can work towards their future careers while they are training towards their football dreams.” Thandi Merafe echoed this sentiment saying that it was the kind of day where many battles are overcome. She explained that development clinics teach far more than the beautiful game of football, they give OPFC the opportunity to inspire the youth, enrich and build their lives so that they can achieve their own dreams. As Happy Jele from OP said: “Football has made us the men, the leaders and members of society we are today, and I think it’s always an honour and privilege to give back, uplift and provide inspiration - not just as Orlando Pirates or football players - but as people of our community.” As school Principal Rose Segale pointed out, the school’s name is a Venda word meaning ‘rainbow’, and there couldn’t have been a more fitting name for a day of hope.