By Paul Mabote
Alexander Mapaga is a 2019 Activator from Mohlakeng in Gauteng and he believes that a child in sports is a child out of court. He and his colleagues at Shukushukuma Youth Hub hosted a special soccer tournament for the young people in their community on the 22nd of March 2021. This special occasion was held at the AB Phokombe Sports Grounds in Randfontein and it is an event that the organization hosts annually.
“Please note that we tried by all means to adhere to the Covid-19 restrictions by practising social distancing and sanitizing all the players and match officials before and after every match.” Said Alexander Mpaga, who is the head of Shukushukuma Youth Hub. He adds that in previous years, the attendance of the event was way larger than what it was this year, as they had to adhere to Covid-19 regulations and only allow less than 250 people to spectate.
Getting the ball rolling
Mpaga is a firm believer that sports can help keep young people away from harmful and unhealthy lifestyles and develop them into responsible and disciplined adults. He states however that hosting a successful sports tournament is a challenging task. He mentions lunch for the players and match officials as one of the challenges they encountered in hosting this particular tournament, as well as securing the winning prizes and some of the soccer equipment. “We were fortunate enough to get help in the form of donations from local businesses and their assistance went a long way” he says.
Mpaga says that although not all legs of the tournament could be completed due to time constraints, it was still a successful event. He says that this particular tournament was themed around human rights, and the objective was to teach the young children not only about their rights but also about their responsibilities. “Most of the young kids here come from disadvantaged backgrounds so platforms such as these give them hope and encouragement to want to do better in life.” He adds.
The earlier the better
He says “My vision is to unite all the regions of Gauteng province in terms of soccer development. I believe that not enough attention is given to developing grassroots soccer. Our country needs to invest more in developing soccer players from a tender age, that way we will see better performing teams and eventually a better performing national squad.”
Apart from hosting the annual soccer tournament, Shukushukuma Youth Hub has other key functions, says Mpaga. These include poverty alleviation which is driven though their “Everyday a happy meal” community feeding program, and an educational drive which is carried through their library. He says that they often host readathons and go around the community, to places like old age homes, promoting the importance of reading. “We also host pool tournaments at local taverns in Mohlakeng.” He says. “Taverns are places were a lot of violent crimes are instigated and so bringing in such tournaments helps instil the spirit of unity, sportsmanship and healthy competition in our people. If you do not give taverners something to do and just let them be drunkards, we are not building but we are destroying our community.” Shukushukuma Youth Hub also has HIV and Aids programs, employment workshops as well as sexual harassment and suicide prevention programs. In a world where many young people are living hopelessly, it is fulfilling to know that young leaders like Alexander Mpaga exist, who have dedicated their lives towards developing the lives of other young people for the better. Alexander, we salute you!