Friday, October 29, 2010
South African tennis amateurs can once again look forward to joining their peers worldwide to compete in the 2011 Kia Amateur Australian Open world finals in Melbourne, Australia.
As the major sponsor of the Australia Open, the motor company has hosted the Kia Amateur Australian Open tournament since 2002 to give amateurs the chance to experience the thrill and excitement of the Grand Slam as well as to show their prowess on the court.
Kia Amateur Australian Open tournaments are held in each of 16 participating countries worldwide. The best amateur players – one male and one female – from each participating country go on to compete in this non-ranking event. Not only do the Kia Australian Open competitors get to watch some of the Grand Slam action, but they also get to play their matches almost side-by-side with tennis greats – the amateur tournament is held on site during the second week of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
There is no prize so to speak – the two winners from each country win an all expenses paid trip to Australia with hospitality and the opportunity to play internationally.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for amateurs,” comments Vinola Pillay of Kia Motors, South Africa. “What makes this tournament unique is that it is aimed at amateurs who play at club level and yet it’s linked to a major international tournament. Competitors in the Kia Amateur Australian Open get to watch and compete in world events, a major coup for any amateur.”
South African amateur players are invited to apply to compete in what is billed to be a major national playoff for their place in Melbourne, and entries close on the 21st November 2010.
The national playoff will be held from Friday, 26th November – Sunday, 28th November at the University of Pretoria. The format is a set of mixed doubles followed by mens / ladies singles set and the winning team needs to win two of three sets.
Entry is open to any South African amateur tennis player over the age of 18 who is a member of a club affiliated to SATA. Participants may not at any stage have had a professional singles or doubles ranking appearing on the ATP or WTA ranking lists. Any person who has competed in a previous Kia Amateur Australian Open cannot play again. SA winners must be available to travel to the Australian Open between January 17 and 30, 2011. For full details on requirements enquiries can be directed to: Lisa Wade: firstname.lastname@example.org or 082 904 1805
Monday, October 25, 2010
He’d like to play for Manchester United, should he make it as a professional player. In the meantime, Pule Konopi continues practising diligently, building on his reputation as the keeper who helped the Jet Nteo High School team take the top spot in Msanzi’s largest high school soccer tournament, the Sanlam Kay Motsepe Cup, in 2010.
Konopi, or Spila as his teammates affectionately call him, started playing soccer with the neighbourhood kids at the age of 11. Positions weren’t cut and dried but he played mostly as defender until one day no keeper was available for an important street game and he was asked to do the honours.
“I was asked to stand in for the keeper as I was taller than everyone in the team,” the 18-year-old recalls. “That was the birth of my position and serious soccer playing. As I went to a public primary school that didn’t offer other sports, I stuck to soccer throughout the years.”
His height, he believes, continues to be an advantage on the pitch but it’s rather his skills in the box that have ultimately led to his inclusion in the Jet Nteo High squad. Under his captaincy, the team steamrolled over Harmony High School - three times winners of this tournament - 2 -0 in the final of the Sanlam Kay Motsepe Cup held at the Matlosana Stadium on September 29. Konopi’s team hardly ever looked liked conceding a goal and scored their first in the 15th minute of the first half. Not only did Jet Nteo end up walking off with the R1million prize money, but Konopi was also named Best Goalkeeper of the tournament.
“From the Sanlam Kay Motsepe tournament I learnt that anything is possible,” he comments. “No one knew where Jet Nteo High School was but we are now on the map.”
Konopi also plays for his township’s amateur club called The Birds FC (SAB League) in Boipatong, in the Vaal Triangle. One of the most memorable moments so far in his life was meeting the team from Brazil during the 2010 FIFA World Cup: “We [The Birds] played against Brazil in one of their warm up games - that I will never forget, meeting players like Kaka, Robinho and Dunga was just a dream came true. I also met Luis Figo who was there to watch the game.”
Though he dreams of following in the footsteps of the Brazilian big names, Konopi realises that a career in football is not guaranteed. “If I don’t make it that far, I plan to enrol for a degree in sports management at the University of Pretoria,” he says.
His other major dream is to one day own a business that can motivate young people to fight for their dreams and that will contribute to the development of his beloved township
Friday, October 15, 2010
On Saturday I was fortunate enough to be invited to the street parade for Jet Nteo, the winners of the Sanlam Key Motsepe Schools Cup. The event was held in the streets of Boipatong in Vanderbjilpark, south of Johannesburg. Boipatong is not well known (I had never heard of the place) but they are building a little bit of a soccer tradition with Jet Neteo being the Sanlam Kay Motsepe Schools Cup champions and with, Bafana Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena, coming from the area.
This area of Vanderbjilpark has also got a political history since it borders Sharpeville and for those of you that have not heard of Sharpeville you should Google the Sharpeville Massacre . There is a museum that pays tribute to those who gave their lives on the 21st March 1960 in the fight against apartheid and pass laws.
Tucked away between an industrial area, a huge power plant and Leeuwkuil Pan; between Vanderbjilpark and Vereeneging is the little township of Boipatong. It is not the healthiest place to grow up and I would hate to know what rubbish the industrial areas spew out but it is where these kids call home.
I was invited to the school where I got to meet the local Sanlam representative, the national Sanlam representatives, the Headmaster of Jet Nteo, the regional counsellor (who unlike most counsellors that I have met, actually seems to be liked by the community), the chief of police, etc. In other words I was treated like someone important.
After a couple of speeches and loads of pictures we were allowed onto the Bus where we were joined by some of the Sundowns players and the soccer academy trainers. The Sundowns players spoke to the kids and once everyone settled we started a tour of Boipatong and Sharpeville. I was amazed to see how many people came out of their houses to cheer on the kids. We even had about 30 kids that ran after the bus laughing and chatting to the kids on the bus.
The bus tour finished at a local stadium where the kids were once again treated to speeches by their headmaster, and Alex Shakoane and Yogesh Singh from Sundowns. They were also introduced to Sundowns legends Daniel Nadau, Joas Lupi Malego, Isaac Shai and Eric Ramatsiki.
Once the speeches finished the fun started. We were entertained by various school dance groups, two freestyle footballers and a soccer clinic that everyone in the stands was invited to. The field was a buzz of activity with male and female kids of all ages trying to impress the Sundowns development coaches instead of listening to them. As a matter of fact, what I heard most from the coaches was “concentrate” and “listen to me”. It was brilliant to watch. The kids learned some skills but they also found out that they need a lot more work before they can imitate their school hero’s.
All in all I had a blast and so did all the people involved. One of the Jet Nteo team members came to me and told me that it was the best day of his life and he wished that it would last for ever.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Thanks to the guys from World of Sport Photography I have been able to put pictures of most of the teams who played in the Danone Nations Cup on my blog. These pictures were taken on Sunday at Orlando Stadium. No matter where the team finished in the log they all had a lot of fun. Below is the final log of the 2009 tournament. These are the kids that you have read about in the newspapers and will see on TV over the next couple of weeks. What they achieved is fantastic but we must all remember that they are just kids and for them the most important thing is to enjoy soccer and have fun. I hope that the pictures show how much fun they had during the tournament because that is really what the tournament is all about and what Zidane stressed in his interviews.
1 South Africa
15 Czech Republic
24 South Korea
32 Saudi Arabia