Developing sports at grassroots level in destitute communities was high on the agenda at the World Sports Values Summit for Peace and Development yesterday.
The summit was held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
More than 15 000 delegates, including 1 500 pupils, attended the first day.
Similar summits have been held in London and Tokyo, and last year the UN in New York played host to discussions about issues relevant to the world of sport, including infrastructure development in poor communities as well as outreach programmes.
The two-day summit started yesterday by introducing sport celebrities like former Bafana Bafana and Leeds United captain Lucas Radebe, five-time Australian Olympic gold medallist Ian Thorpe, World Cup winning cricket coach Gary Kirsten and Fives Futbol chief executive Adam Fine.
Kirsten said the summit coincided with the launch of a new sports hub at Chris Hani Secondary School in Khayelitsha, headed by the Gary Kirsten Foundation and funded by Japanese philanthropist Dr Haruhisa Handa.
Handa is also the chairman of the Worldwide Support for Development and the International Sports Promotion Society.
He has invested heavily in the local Fives Futbol soccer franchise and PSL side Mpumalanga Black Aces.
Kirsten said: “What is more important for me is the fact that sport has brought such opportunities and privilege in my life and I wanted to go out there and create that privilege and opportunity in the best way I could for as many under-privileged kids as possible.”
About 18 months ago, Kirsten visited 10 schools in Khayelitsha accompanied by a local high school principal.
That trip made him realise the lack of sports facilities in high schools in Khayelitsha: “I asked the principal how many kids would be in these schools and he said the total is over 8 500 pupils. What surprised me was when we visited each one of these schools we did not see one cricket facility in any of them.
“Not one cricket net. There were over 8 000 pupils at those schools who would not be able to learn one of our national sports. That scared me,” said Kirsten.
When the Cape Argus approached Handa, he was surrounded by excited pupils wanting to have their white soccer balls autographed.
He said education and sport went hand in hand to encourage underprivileged youth to “rise above their circumstance and break the cycle of poverty”.
“That is why we use sport celebrities to encourage the youth.
“We see pupils become inspired by the sporting legends and encouraged by them to study hard and use sport as a motivator.”
Handa was recently named the chancellor of the Luther University of South Africa – a relatively new institution.
The institution focuses on humanities, religion, music and sport.
He said he was keen on inspiring young people in ways that might better their communities. He has invested $1 million (more than R13.7m) in support of sport infrastructure development.
Radebe said the only means of advancing grassroots level sport is to encourage youth to join local teams.
“I think the most important thing is to have sustainability at grass-root level.
“This will ensure that we have sustainable talent coming up to make sure that we have a steady supply of talent which would pave the way for eventual success.” - Cape Argus