Durban - Contrary to what SA Football Association President Danny Jordaan believes, top rugby and cricket schools in KwaZulu-Natal are offering soccer to their pupils.
Elite schools across KwaZulu-Natal have noticed an increasing interest from pupils but support from parents still remains a challenge, said school officials this week.
“We have 30 soccer teams in the school with about 300 boys that play,” said Michaelhouse rector Greg Theron.
Theron – who said the school competed with other high schools from the province – said he wanted to contact Jordaan after he made the remark about top rugby and cricket schools not offering soccer to pupils.
“There is a considerable effort going into soccer in KwaZulu-Natal schools,” he said.
Speaking in Johannesburg last week after Bafana Bafana’s early exit from the African Nations Championship and the ensuing backlash from the sports minister and the public, Jordaan said schools needed to introduce football as one of their sports. “These things don’t exist in South Africa,” he said.
Jordaan said Safa would be launching excellence centres in all nine provinces to help develop talent. He acknowledged that the association needed to start by looking at grassroots development.
“If you look at the best schools in South Africa, very few of them offer soccer. Instead, they focus on rugby and cricket. They have the finance, best pitches and the best coaches. But they do not play football.”
Not in KZN
“That might be the case in Cape Town or Johannesburg, but definitely not in this province,” Theron said, adding that several boys schools, including Westville Boys, Glenwood High and Kearsney College competed in soccer in the third term. “The interest from our boys when it comes to soccer is actually more than what we see in other sporting codes,” he said.
However, parental support did not match the pupils’ enthusiasm.
“Parental support is not as great and I’m not sure whether the community buys into soccer as much as they do in rugby.”
Soccer, said Theron, was given as much attention as all the other sport codes.
Kearsney College spokeswoman Heather Pearse shared his sentiments. “Soccer has the most participation from our pupils,” she said.
The college had 26 soccer teams. “Soccer is played in the third term, when our boys compete with all the top schools in Durban and surrounding areas.”
Pearse conceded that unlike rugby, there wasn’t much school rivalry when it came to soccer.
Most township and rural schools said more focus was being given to various sports, and not just soccer following the sport and education department school sports programme launched last year.
Provincial Sports Department spokesman Sandile Qwabe said the campaign offered to both primary and high schools was already yielding the deserved results.
“We’ve already held a tournament where 6 000 kids from various schools competed in different sporting codes, including soccer.”
As the programme grew, coaching clinics would be offered to pupils and teachers, Qwabe said.
Education spokesman Muzi Mahlambi said KZN pupils competed in 16 codes of sports in the SA Schools Championships last year.
The tournament, which is also referred to as the Top Schools Championships, is the culmination of the newly launched schools leagues.