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A gem of a Perl (man): Meet the man behind the microphone who has 24 years under his belt

Broadcast veteran John Perlman. Supplied image.

Broadcast veteran John Perlman. Supplied image.

Published May 28, 2022


Johannesburg - He’s a familiar and daily voice in our ears but there is so much more to the man behind the microphone. In August this year, John Perlman will celebrate two years at 702 but the veteran broadcast man has 24 golden years under his belt.

When he’s not in the studio, Perlman spends his time trying to improve the lives of children in disadvantaged communities across South Africa, through sport. The afternoon drive-time host is also the CEO of Dream Fields Projects, a non-profit organisation formed in 2007 to make significant investments in football facilities, programmes and equipment for township and rural schools.

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“We want to make the beautiful game a vibrant and positive part of educational life. Dream Fields is committed to whole school education – where good quality teaching is matched and reinforced by a rich and inclusive life outside the classroom. We are in the business of creating sustainable communities of primary schools’ football, across South Africa, and we’re helping to enrich the educational environment wherever we operate. We’ve invested more than R100 million in our country’s disadvantaged schools and communities,” the project's press release reads.

Perlman said his time at 702 has been “great” and he has high praise for his colleagues, saying they are some of the most driven people he’s ever worked with.

DreamLeagues are well-run programmes of regular matches where schools play week in and week out. Through weekly football and netball – rather than knockout play – children learn those valuable life lessons about discipline, determination and teamwork. Supplied image.

“We expect so much from ourselves and we owe it to our listeners. Not a day has gone by where a listener hasn’t left me thinking about things in a different way. I strongly believe that you’re only as good as your next show,” he said.

When he’s not working, Perlman loves spending time in the bush. He also loves red wine, cycling and cooking with his wife.

“I can cook but I am definitely the deputy when it comes to the kitchen,” he said.

If you’re a Perlman fan, you know that he has a calm demeanour when dealing with some of the most challenging issues and people facing South Africa and the world.

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“I admit that at times the news weighs heavily on me, especially over the last three years. I still find it difficult to completely disconnect. So, on Saturdays I try not to look at any news. I don’t watch live news but I do record it,” he said.

Asked how he remains calm with all the shenanigans he has to deal with from politicians, Perlman said: “Just because you’re dramatic, doesn’t mean you’re effective. My job is to get answers. The main value in what we do is to listen and try to understand. Also, there are different styles that work for different presenters and my calm approach works for me,” he said.

Perlman’s other passion, The Dream Fields Projects, raises funds to supply schools with DreamBags, shirts, shorts and socks, boots, balls and shin guards for 15 players.

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“We’ve equipped more than 3 400 schools so far. These are not just bags of equipment – they are bags full of possibility and promise. Working with South Africa’s Department of Basic Education, we create DreamLeagues, well-run programmes of regular matches where schools play week in and out. Through weekly football and netball – rather than knockout play – children learn those valuable life lessons about discipline, determination and teamwork,” the organisation said.

Marlize Keyser, a teacher at Ysterplaat Primary in Cape Town, said of the Dream Fields Projects: “You changed our school with one DreamBag.That one bag gave the children a purpose, pride, a sense of belonging and responsibility. It’s a great tool for good discipline in the classroom, because the kids know they won’t be allowed to play the next match if they don’t do their work or hand in projects.

“When I started teaching at Ysterplaat three years ago, there was no sport and we struggled with kids involved with drugs, gangs and poor discipline. Today we have four soccer and four netball teams.”

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Landry Maloka has been running DreamLeagues at Malenkwana school near the Botswana border for a year, with 189 learners taking part consistently, 97 girls and 92 boys. Around 45% of the learners at the school play weekly sport.

For Maloka, the DreamLeagues have had many positive educational impacts, especially on attendance.

“Before this, many of the learners were bunking school. This is a remote rural area and most of their parents are working far away. The children would stay away from school and try to get small jobs at nearby farms. Around 40% of the learners were attending inconsistently.

“DreamLeagues are making a great impact,” Maloka added. “Now that they know that there is sport organised that they like, the bunking has stopped because they are having fun. All of the learners want to take part. They are even asking me to come in on Saturdays to organise games. Some tell me they dream of playing for Bafana Bafana or Banyana Banyana.”

The Saturday Star