Contributed by: Wesley Hull
The following story is from the point of view of two young men in South Africa. It is not the story of AFL South Africa, nor is it necessarily true of others across the nation. It is following on from their own personal journeys, documented previously on World Footy News.
Joubert Macdonald Motone and Mokati Teddy Thibello have each been involved in the development of Australian Football for many years. Joubert has spoken previously of the great things (see: Baulkham Hills Hawks' generosity reaches across the world ) and the not so good times – Triumph over adversity – The spirit of our game. – as his smaller footy world has been impacted by greater forces – and not necessarily positive forces.
(Picture - kids playing football in donated jumpers from Australia in Bodibe) The towns of Bodibe and Itsoseng sit in the north-west of South Africa – between the larger towns of Lichtenburg and Mahikeng, around 250 kilometres west of Johannesburg and Pretoria and close to the Botswana border. Whilst they are relatively close to the major cities, as well as the home of Australian football in Potchefstroom, they are also worlds away and the forces that act on football, or any sport, are often unique to that location. Support from greater sporting bodies, and often political, cannot make the changes required.
Joubert looked back on the better days. “Yeah it was the good times we had because every player was enjoying the moments they had and there was lot of game time and competitions. We had some of the players selected to participate in the provincial squad (Ngaka Modiri Molema) and nationals respectively.”
However, forces beyond the governing bodies of the sport started to erode away at the progress. “Some of the players then had a lot of challenges because they were not financially stable so they had to go and look for jobs and others went to schooling in various places. Changing of management affected us also. That’s when Bodibe and Itsoseng AFL teams had a struggle of game recognition [the game being recognised by local football and non-football bodies] This affected communication as well as the information. We were overlooked, in short.”
Over just a few year, the football climate in the region changed. “In Bodibe now we have single player who is playing for the Itsoseng Kangaroos because Bodibe no longer have an AFL team. Across South Africa AFL is still being played with a lot of development in schools and in the communities. However, we are lacking development for senior players and games.”
Joubert and Thibello are acutely aware that for them to rebuild the game they will have to find other creative catalysts. They know that AFL South Africa cannot perform miracles and has only so much money and so many resources to share across Gauteng province, and South Africa as a whole. Rather than expend energy on that particular avenue, they have another idea.
Both men want to travel to Australia to gain coaching experience and a wider understanding of the game. They want to see how Australian clubs – junior and senior – operate in the hope of taking that learning home. To spend a year learning as much as possible and gaining coaching qualifications or experience could be taken back to Bodibe or Itsoseng and used to reignite the game locally.
Already at least one Australian club has offered to pay for coaching accreditation, and allow these young men to be part of the club’s coaching team. That would be a massive boost. But, to make that happen, these committed and determined men need to find funds to get to Australia and endorsement to meet the various visa requirements.
It is a tall order, but Joubert believes that there may be a club, business or benefactor that might reach out and help them.
On a return from a year in Australia, Joubert also has some ideas as to how the face of the game can be changed in Bodibe – in partnership with AFL South Africa and local governing bodies. “The management has to be changed. An investigation into how to do this is needed. We maybe need to offer payment to national team players [as an incentive to achieve]. More games and opportunities have to be created to boost interest.”
Additionally, Joubert thinks that, “facilities should be granted, volunteers paid, a review of participation fees for representative players [undertaken]. These things could be done with an audit of the game in our area to assist the development of junior and senior players.”
These are grand schemes, but not an attack on existing work done by AFL South Africa. Joubert and Thibello are simply trying to find resources beyond what already exists. They are conscious that sporting funding to their area is often intercepted by local bodies and is not making it to the kids they need for the future of the game.
Their desire to travel and learn is vital for their ability to gain experience and resources and bring them to Bodibe directly.
It is hoped that someone can help them reach their goals. More importantly, it is hoped that the stagnation of the game in Bodibe can be addressed. This is just one small, remote town, but a victory here could be an inspiration to any other struggling club anywhere in the world.
It there is anybody interested in assisting, you may contact World Footy News and we can redirect you to these young men in Bodibe.
These young men are seeking wisdom – footy wisdom – and should be applauded for their desire and vision.
World Footy News