BY EMMANUEL EKENE OKERE
The Stellenbosch University (SU) leadership team has collaborated with the Premier Soccer League (PSL) home side, Stellenbosch Football Club (SFC), to bring the action closer to the Stellenbosch sporting community. This is a promising development, as it means that the senior league contending side now trains in the campus’s backyard.
According to a press release made by SU on 12 October last year, SU and SFC have partnered to allow SFC to use two prominent footballing facilities on campus to train over nine seasons for their PSL campaign. The two sports arenas that have been agreed upon are the Lentelus Football Complex (next to Goldfields Residence and opposite the department of food science building) and the Danie Craven Stadium (next to the Coetzenburg auditorium).
News of the collaboration coincides with the team in good form: SFC are currently third on the log after 18 games. The current winner is Mamelodi Sundowns, a club that many perceive to be in their prime; and Orlando Pirates are in second place. These developments afford increased accessibility to professional football to communities who previously could not witness professional football.
In a press release on 11 October last year, which is available on SFC’s website, Rob Benadie, the chief executive officer of SFC, took time to reiterate how fortunate his organisation is to be based in a town with a rich sporting heritage and to have the university and other key stakeholders partnering with it to assist its continued growth. He was further quoted saying, “It is incredible to see how excited the town is about the SFC brand and the prospect of building a home fortress at the iconic Danie Craven Stadium.”
SU rector and vice chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers seized the occasion to reiterate the importance of sports and sporting activities in creating social cohesion and bringing people together. As reported in the aforementioned press release, during the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the university and the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport (SAS), De Villiers said, “Football is the biggest global sport, so building a platform in Stellenbosch to create career opportunities for talented young players will have [an] impact on the university community, our town and the Western Cape.”
Speaking to one Maties FC soccer player, Grace Ombaku, a fourth-year BEng (Mechanical Engineering) student, regarding the development, he said, “I think the collaboration paid off in terms of talent recruitment and grooming, since technically they are supposed to be watching Maties and scouting players from us here and there, and from time to time we use some of their players. But this is to be confirmed. Our current team in the ABC Motsepe League is composed of 10% of the SFC players.”
He went further to highlight that, “at the moment, the SFC main keeper and team captain is in charge of coaching all the Maties keepers”, enabling SU to use SFC’s knowledge and experience to develop the Maties soccer team.
Due to the pandemic and the subsequent change in the way things are done, there have been restrictions on fans’ physical presence in the sporting arenas. The SFC team still trains behind closed doors, but sport lovers and fans will likely have more access to watch live games and training once all the lockdown regulations are over—something which both new and returning Maties can look forward to this year. It will be exciting to witness match day action live as SFC lock horns with the other 15 teams in the PSL.