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Where will the children play?

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Dear Honorable Mayor and Councilors of the “City of Choice”

I believe you want to offer our professional football team Maritzburg United a sponsorship of R 9 million. I don’t know what cars you all drive or in fact if you are brought to work by helicopters as you seem to miss all the famous potholes, uncut shoulders, mountains of rubbish, faulty street lights, taxis suicide bombers, electricity and water points that do not work. , and especially our non-existent sports grounds.

I was wondering if you would consider walking past the once pristine sports grounds of Alexandra Park, Dales Park, Manor, Tatum, Brookside, Chatterton Road, and Dalry Park, to name a few. For those of you with tinted windows, large bodyguards, and air conditioning, I’ve included some photos of the current state of these fields, now gone and abandoned under your watch.

In 1882, over 139 years ago, Pietermaritzburg had four playable football fields: one was the Oval in Alexandra Park, another was called “the Vlei” in Braid Street, another was the “Garrison” land in Fort Napier and the fourth was just outside City Hall, where the Library and Liberty Square are now located. We currently do not have any serviced or usable municipal football pitches in the city.

Africa’s oldest football club, Savage FC (founded 1882), was the Oval’s resident club in Alexandra Park at the time and shared facilities with Zingari Cricket Club during their various seasons. sports.

“Sadly, under your predecessors and your watch, all of these pitches are now either built, abandoned, or unusable for football due to uncut or non-existent grass, molehills, anthills, stray cattle and goats, the strange bush pig, no markings and no goal posts. (I am corrected, I noticed a rusty and crooked goal post on the old Under-14 field at Alexandra Park and one at Dales Park – the former Westmore Park.) ”

Ben hartshorne

Over the years, city rulers have added to the city and surrounding sports grounds and until about 20 years ago PMB could boast of the following soccer fields in and around the city: Alexandra Park (Oval, Duck Pond, Under 16, 14, 12, 10 and less than 6/8 fields). A little further away was the Jan Smuts stadium which was also accessible to all football clubs, and not just reserved for the only mediocre professional club in the city, like now. It doesn’t matter, as we could use the Ellis Smith (sometimes affectionately referred to as Ellis Concrete), Forsyth, and Dare Osborne fields right next to it.

Then there were two fields at Manor, two at Tatum, three at Brookside, four or more at Chatterton Road near the Royal Showgrounds, one at the center of the showgrounds, two at Dales Park and two at Dalry Park where the famous UKZN teams used to play. These are 27 fields well maintained by the Parks Department, suitably marked and with the necessary goal posts! Before pulling a string of ham, these fields were open and well used by people of all ethnic groups long before the changes of 1994.

Sadly, under your predecessors and oversight, all of those pitches are now either built, abandoned, or unusable for football due to uncut or non-existent grass, molehills, anthills, stray cattle and goats, the strange bush pig, no markings and no goal posts. (Corrected, I noticed a rusty and crooked goal post on the old Under-14 field at Alexandra Park and one at Dales Park – the old Westmore Park.)

Alexander Park Junior PHOTO:

I humbly suggest that instead of sponsoring a professional football club that is already heavily subsidized by the league through private and private sponsors, spectators (Covid-19 resistant) and advertising revenue from many sources, you use this money wisely by repairing and maintaining the few remaining fields for the sportsmen of your communities and especially the children.

I also humbly suggest that you consider restoring the allowance paid to local football associations at the time, which allowed them to help clubs with football kits and equipment. I think the Maritzburg and District Football Association (MDFA) – probably the oldest football association in South Africa, founded in 1897 – last received the princely sum of R10,000 a year, about 25 years ago. years.

The MDFA was a great association at the time and housed hundreds of football clubs in the PMB. There were senior first, second and third division leagues, with around 12 teams per league, as well as junior leagues for each age group from under six to under 21. These clubs flourished because they had excellent playing fields and facilities like changing rooms and floodlights.

There was also an excellent Sunday League which was played on the Oval and Duck Pond fields in Alexandra Park which drew thousands of supporters for the big games.

Due to the lack of facilities and any municipal help, the MDFA and many other football associations have either disappeared or are struggling to survive. The MDFA and Maritzburg Central Area Soccer Stream (MCASS) have combined their forces and merged to form the Central Area Soccer Stream this season. They are also struggling to survive due to the lack of any Safa, municipal or government assistance and of course the Covid 19 pandemic. This proud stream playing under the aegis of the Safa Local Football Association has attracted over 60 clubs PMB Central and Outlying Areas including Imbali, Edendale, Sobantu, Northdale and Eastwood. The only problem is that they don’t have any usable municipal land for playing.

“He healed them (and sometimes gently cursed them), he comforted them, he mothered and fathered them, he heard their dreams, saw their tears of joy and sorrow, saw their sorrows not only of football but of life. family and love life, he mentored and sometimes was framed, he was challenged, he won and lost (both games and players), but he did his best and prepared “her children” for their future. “

Ben hartshorne

Many of these clubs come from poor areas and have very poor pitches and facilities. They are largely managed by volunteer members who are driven by a passion to help their communities through sport. For many children, this is the only opportunity to pursue their athletic dreams and share the camaraderie with other children in our Rainbow Nation.

If you feel like you have insurmountable problems and life’s challenges weigh you down to the point of despair and see no future, I challenge you to find your local sports ground and watch the kids play. Try the little ones, the lucky legs, or formally the under-sixs first. Soak up the unbridled joy of the freedom to kick a ball, roll, tumble, hug the goalscorer, comfort the loser, hear the screams of excited parents, watch butterflies and most of all not to worry about the outcome of the game because you are a champion in the eyes of your coaches and your parents.

Now that your spirits have risen, step forward through the dusty floors and watch the children grow before your eyes until you get to your under 17s. Here things are more serious because it is the last year before senior football. Often times, the coach (Coach Joe, Coach Lucky, Coach Brian, etc.) has been with these kids for over 10 years unpaid. Yes, unpaid, but only financially because he saw “his” children become beautiful women and men.

SECOND PHOTO TOP and TOP RIGHT: Alexandra Park junior field. ABOVE LEFT: Dales Park Field. PHOTOS: PROVIDED

Alexander Park Junior PHOTO:

AB Jacksons PHOTO:

Alexander Park Junior PHOTO:

Alexander Park Junior PHOTO:

Alexander Park Junior PHOTO:

He cared for them (and sometimes gently cursed), he comforted them, he mothered and fathered them, he heard their dreams, saw their tears of joy and sorrow, saw their sorrows not only of football but of family life. and love life, he mentored and sometimes was framed, he was challenged, he won and lost some (both games and players), but he did his best and prepared “His children” for their future. Next season you’ll likely see Coaches Joe, Brian and Lucky hovering past the Under-Six field, anxious for someone to ask, “Sir, we need a coach, please. “

Sorry, Mayor, I veered away from my main point: the lack of well-maintained sports fields for our children and the community in general. Imagine if you made a difference and not only fixed our children’s fields, but maintained them as well. Imagine if you and the other advisers came down to the field and watched the kids play. I am sure that your morale and enthusiasm would be uplifted and you would be inspired to solve all the other problems in the city as well.

I also humbly ask you to put a song on your CD player or even call it up on Spotify on your very smart audio system in your very smart car, it’s aptly called: Where will the children play? by Cat Stevens. It will remind you of your civic duty and your oath to serve all the inhabitants of this once beautiful city before it is too late. Sadly, it may be too late for you as you seem far down the next mayor’s list, so maybe leave this letter somewhere for your successor to find, to hopefully allow them to leave a legacy to future generations of Pietermaritzburg.

Ben Hartshorne PHOTO:

• Ben Hartshorne has played football his entire life at PMB. He has researched the history of Savages FC and says he has established that they are the oldest football club in Africa and the ninth in the world. “We are registered with the Club of Pioneers run by Sheffield FC in the UK, officially the world’s premier football club.”


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