New sports complex puts the Northern Cape town of De Aar on the map
De Aar, the 119 year-old former railway junction town in the Northern Cape last week unveiled a spanking new multimillion-rand sports facility compliments of a China-based solar energy producer in the area, CHN-Longyuan Mulilo.
The complex consists of an artificial turf soccer field with netted goal posts, and four spanking new, galvanised iron seating areas for fans. At the back of the stands are new ablution blocks with well laid out change rooms for competing teams.
There are also four tartan surface courts which can interchangeably be used as netball, tennis or volleyball courts.
The complex which is worth R10 million, was also renamed after its immediate neighbourhood, the Merino Park sports complex.
CHN-Longyuan Mulilo director of socio-economic development Fay Cassim explained that the idea for the multi sports complex arose from a chance meeting with Gregory Afrika, an executive member of the Emthanjeni Local Football Association, an affiliate of the South African Football Association (Safa).
The two of them had at that meeting in the neighbouring Britstown shared a common concern over the lack of a proper turfed ground for the local sports teams. This was prior to the onset of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Cassim and Afrika then escalated their mutual concern over the sports field and approached the regional Safa organ as well as the Emthanjeni district municipality.
The idea snowballed to the extent that within a week of their meeting they put together a proposal which Cassim presented to her power producer employer; CHN-Longyuan Mulilo Wind Projects in November 2019.
Cassim said: “Construction of the multi sports complex started in January 2020. Some months down the line Covid restrictions set in and the project was put on hold. When the restrictions were lifted slightly several months later the construction started with the contractor now forced to comply with the strict Covid protocols.”
Construction was initially aimed at catering for the football fraternity and was later expanded to also include sports aimed at girls and so the netball courts were added. Cassim explained that the plot of land was chosen primarily because there was a gravel pitch in Merino Park. “Initially there was a football pitch. The pitch was substandard. It was not the best quality to play on. It was rundown. It inspired us to look at it with a view to future development.”
The local municipality donated the land to the business-community and sports consortium and they started working on it immediately. Construction on the project concluded last in February.
Emthanjeni district municipality mayor Sipho Sthonga delivered the keynote address speaking on behalf of all three communities – De Aar, Hanover and Richmond – that are beneficiaries of this facility.
“This is a state of the art facility that we will safeguard with all our might,” Sthonga said. “We appreciate having it as well as our private partners who made this a success. We were proven right to allow the independent power producers to come in our midst. We are now reaping the fruits of them being part of the Emthanjeni family.
“This facility comes just in time when we have a national team here. Now this time in the past found it difficult to host other teams here. We would now love to see them host those teams here in our space.
“Unlike before they will not have to play in faraway places such as Kimberley which has facilities approved by national associations. It is the community’s facility but allows us as the municipality to administer it,” he added.
Amichand Amsterdam owner of Richmond Ladies FC who ply their trade in the first ever national national Women’s League (NWL) said he was delighted to finally have a proper playing surface.
“We managed to get a sponsor to provide us with this beautiful pitch. Previously we had to travel 50 kilometres to play on a proper (grass) ground while we trained on gravel. As you know there is a big difference in those surfaces. You are going to see an improvement in how we are going to play on this surface.”
Amsterdam confirmed that Richmond Ladies will from now on play all their league home games in De Aar. The club was scheduled to play the first match of the restarted league season that very afternoon against Polokwane-based First Touch Academy.
Chris Appies chairperson United Rovers one of De Aar most celebrated clubs affiliated to the senior/national ABC Motsepe league said: “This occasion is really historic for De Aar, especially for soccer development in our area. We’ve struggled for years to have a facility like this. We really appreciate it from our private partners Longyuan and Mulilo for coming up with this facility.
“It is really huge for us. We are going to use this stadium as our home ground. I can assure you that teams coming down to De Aar must be ready because as of now we are going to be a different team.”
Several other dignitaries including Safa deputy chairperson of Emthanjeni local Football Association Deon Stadhouer all heaped praise on the complex and profusely thanked the sponsors for the gift.
The stadium was later that day scheduled to host short ceremonial games featuring matches between two sets of men’s teams. The netball courts similarly hosted several knockout games to celebrate the day.