Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Sundays leisure football fosters social cohesion

BY PATIENCE LEPHOGOLE

Sundays are not only special for jazz lovers, but for footballers as well. They are filled with local lads in their soccer boots and kits, with spectators having their camp chairs and cooler boxes filled with drinks of their preference witnessing unrecognised talent all day long if it is a tournament or just one game in the morning.

Over the past couple of years, Sunday soccer has grown exponentially, with supporters thronging to the dusty fields to witness their teams in action. For the social football or Sunday soccer fans, the game is not just about kicking the living life out of a round pig skin.

Unlike regulated football, Sunday soccer is about social interaction, a chance to ‘chill’ with fellow football supporters, share banter and enjoy the raw street football style’ popularly referred to as ‘Kasi flavour’.

In between the cheers and the showcasing of the street skill, it is thus not uncommon for a visitor to Sunday soccer to hear banter shared between rivals supporters, players and match officials.

“Lesa go re jesa wena saan,” implicating that one player is not doing well in the field or “O batla go refa o sunetsa wena,” directed at the referee for a perceived unfairness because ‘they are favouring a particular team,’ are Sunday football catch phrases one can expect to hear during the games.

In a place like Mochudi, one cannot leave out the fact that friendly threats and swearing are always heard in the crowd.

With so much fun and games, it is no little wonder that spectators normally come in large numbers for such games.

In fact, some Sunday soccer teams surprisingly attract more crowds than some premier league teams. Funny, right?  Well it is a sad reality. This shows that Sunday football games are a local supporters’ own football haven.

“It is more than just playing football on Sunday; we assist each other with identifying employment as well as business opportunities, especially that we have people with diverse life skills,” PV Monko’s Tshepiso Chelane opined.

Chelane, who is the team’s player and committee vice chairperson says at their team they are deeply rooted in the philosophy of supporting members with their socio economic needs.

He noted that they also mentor young ones who are predominant in their membership, as well as engaging in corporate social responsibility projects.

“The aforementioned attract many footballers and me included to participate in Sunday soccer, to be part of a family that is beneficial to the community at large. The attendance is generally good and numbers can swell depending on the activities that we will be engaged on,” he added.

He further noted that they have annual tournaments such as Pinnacle Geomatics Soccer Spectacular which can attract quite a number of football fans from around the country.

He said “Our team always honour invitations from other clubs free of charge especially when they raise funds for the underprivileged. Our participation is usually underpinned on our overarching ambition of helping the less privileged in our communities, something we really take pride in.”

“We do things differently, through robust marketing of our events and tournaments on social media; we respect football and team kit, for one to be on the field they have to be on full kit from socks to t-shirts. We also discourage alcohol and substance abuse. After our games, hold motivational talks and disperse, that is if we don’t have any project to focus on,” he noted.

“Some of our members run businesses and usually offer massive financial support for any worthwhile projects, including procurement of our kit and other requirements. These companies include Pinnacle Geomatics, Vetsol, Enviro Kongs and GEOVISION.”

While this is just social football, fans do not expect to watch de crème of the village for free and easily pay the fee to watch the games when required. As such, there are some cult heroes within the teams, and their names are normally on the lips of spectators.

For Mochudi based Mario Fighters team manager Thabang Seleke, whose team is made mostly of young players, Sunday football not only offers them a chance to showcase their talent but is also an escape from social ills.

“We normally have tournaments, which are when you will see how talented Botswana is. These are skilful players who pour out their emotions in the field of play to use the skill they have been blessed with,” he noted.

Moreover, Seleke noted that Sunday soccer keeps players away from social ills, as Saturday they and during the week they train, and then play on Sunday. He said “It gives them less time to indulge in social ills, hence moulding their behaviour.”

Seleke is also a member of Sechaba Social Club football team, which is for the older players. He said for them football is used to trim fats, improve cardio as well as to keep fit.

“Our team is made up of elderly men, gets fair attendance but most of us are married hence we cannot attract soccer babes, only football lovers,” he explained.

“We contribute monthly to keep the team’s financial status going; we support each other during bereavement, weddings. For us it is a good networking opportunity as we uplift each other in our daily lives,” added Seleke.

Red Army Social Club football team Captain and Public Relations Officer (PRO) Percy Phuthego said they are attracted to football for various reasons. “This is where we socialize and meet with people from different teams and walks of life.”

“The attendance is very good, more especially when we play with teams such as PV Monko, Gunners supporters, Notwane Supporters and Media SC. Attendance can also overwhelm one when we have tournaments, it shows Batswana supports us fully,” he added.

Phuthego further noted that they have grown to be family, helping each other through thick and thin, even by being accommodative and friendly to teams that are coming from outside Gaborone.

Phuthego said “Normally after games we chill at our play grounds and discuss a lot of things about life. We generate income by paying a subscription fee of P100 every January and P20 monthly contributions.”

Sunday football fanatic Thabo Tapela who supports Mochudi’s known Mario Fighters says the best part of these games is that they can meet and enjoy local football. “Some of the player’s showcases their talents in an unexpected way, many fans always come watch the games,” he said.

“Some players can be game-changers as such it is always great dedicating your time to watch them do what they love most, players worth watching and paying to see” he added.

Tapela further added how it is always a pleasure attending Sunday games. “One is sure of having a beautiful Sunday, with lots of supporters shouting out to their teams, hence giving their teams morale,” he noted.

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