On Thursday 8 May, Consul General Chris Trott hosted a visiting delegation from the English Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) at the High Commissioner’s Residence in Cape Town. The PFA visited South Africa to conduct social and educational programmes in Cape Town with Coaching for Hope and many other voluntary and charitable sporting partners working at grass root levels and in local communities, including the International Citizen Service programme, the street children programme and the development of girls’/women’s programmes. Members of the PFA delegation included Rachel Yankey OBE, captain of the England women’s team and the highest capped England player of all time, having played at international level 129 times, including at the 2011 Women’s World Cup and for the Great Britain team at the London 2012 Olympics.
At the welcome event for the PFA, Consul General Chris Trott recalled comments by former President Nelson Mandela, who said “Sport has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers”.
The PFA’s visit to South Africa espoused this spirit and helped enhance the sporting links between the UK and South Africa supporting youth development through sport. This theme is being taken forward across a number of partnerships between the United Kingdom and South Africa including the British Council Premier Skills programme, which brings English Premier League coaches to South Africa to train grass root coaches and referees in that vocation and also social development, which they can take back to their local communities. The popularity of Football and particularly the English Premier League enables these programmes to have such a significant impact in South Africa. The following for the game was in evidence when over 100,000 visitors came to Zoo Lake in Johannesburg in March for the first ever Premier League Live event.
These are examples of the inspiration and excitement that sport offers, which we will build on when the UK hosts the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in a couple of months and the Rugby World Cup in England in 2015.