submitted by Saba Hale
This week Nike celebrated the grand opening of their soccer center in Soweto, South Africa. The training facility was a gift to the communities of Soweto and Johannesburg. Andy Walker, the designer, said he wanted to create a “monolithic temple for football” to give “inspiration and aspiration to the local community.”
Nike hopes that this facility will provide the youth of Soweto a safe place to come together through soccer and inspire them to reach their full potential, not only as athletes but in their lives. The center houses two USAID-associated project groups – Grassroots Soccer, an NGO that coaches children in football, and Right to Care. Additionally, it has integrated both HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment on site.
We hope this state-of-the-art facility creates a legacy for future generations. The center promotes the best quality of soccer – a unifier of people and communities. The facility’s lights shine though Soweto brightening once darkened corners.
The excitement continued this week when the US Soccer Team met with and signed autographs for USAID and PEPFAR sponsored children at the teams open practice for the FIFA World Cup. The children waited excitedly to enter the stadium, a small group of them kicked around a soccer ball in anticipation of the open practice.
As the children entered the stadium to watch the practice, the blasting of their decorated vuvuzelas was deafening, as hundred of the horns rang out in excitement. After the practice was over, the children lined up to meet members of the US Soccer team. Order was quickly lost however as the kids rushed the field to meet the team. The soccer players and staff graciously complied with every signing request. Appendages, shirts, hats, cards, and soccer balls were all covered in ink and signatures.
Meeting the US Soccer Team, role models they’d only seen on TV, allowed the children to see that the members of the team were regular people just like them. It would be easy for these kids to forget their full potential but meeting the team allowed them to see that dreams are indeed within their grasp.