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Soweto was transformed into a mini Olympics venue this past weekend as youngsters and the not so young tussled in 20 sporting codes – including Swimming, Golf, Cycling, Tennis, Football, Ring Ball, Rugby, Martial Arts, Netball, Athletics and Chess, to celebrate 20 Years of Freedom while impressing scouts.

This sporting festivity under the banner “Soweto Ward Games” was organised by the Soweto Sport Council (SSC) in partnership with the Gauteng Provincial Government’s Department of Sport, Arts, Culture & Recreation and the City of Johannesburg.

Through this initiative the SCC aims to identify and nurture talent that can one day feed into the national teams.

Sports legends such as former Olympics Silver Medallist Hezekiel Sepeng, national team coach Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba, rugby’s Owen Nkumane – were present at the Soweto Sports Indaba. Other luminaries present were cricket coaches from the Lions and Strikers respectively, Geoffrey Toyana and Enoch Nkwe, former world boxing champion Lehlohonolo Ledwaba and former SA mini-flyweight champion Stephen Msimanga.

Lawrence Mahatlane, the Chairperson of the SSC and the current Head Coach of the South African U/19 cricket team, who hails from Rockville, Soweto, is himself a product of grassroots development.

“We want to get Soweto playing and reignite the mass participation in sport from grassroots. I am passionate about sport development – more so because, I am myself a product of such initiatives and those have to start from grassroots. I firmly believe that there is no better time to start, but by doing that from today, we will be investing in our future national players,” said Mahatlane.

The ambitious plans of the ward games are to be a stream of new talent from the 20 different sporting codes that have been identified. It’s hoped that the talented youngsters – who are identified through the Soweto Ward Games (SWGs) would one day wear their national colours and represent their country at international sporting events such as the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, the ICC Cricket World Cup (CWC) and ICC World Twenty20 (WT20), the Rugby World Cup (RWC), the International Athletics Association Federation (IAAF) meets, the global netball tournaments and the ATP Tour, to mention a few.

This commitment follows the Soweto Sports Indaba resolutions, which were taken at the gathering held last October in Jabulani, Soweto.

The mandate from the Soweto Sports Indaba was taken to reignite sports and get children playing at the Soweto Ward Games (SWGs) with all residents from all ages included. After extensive consultation with federations, ward councillors and ward sports committees, it was time to take to the fields to get the games going.

SSC Chairperson, Mahatlane concluded by saying: “The SWGs seek to ensure that those with talent are channelled into the mainstream of competitive sport, to promote access to sport programmes and facilities to all in Soweto regardless of age in order to promote and sustain a healthy lifestyle and to promote social cohesion in communities as well as unity through sport.”

The SWGs semi-finals and finals across all 20 codes of sport identified were held on the weekend of October 4 and 5, 2014 at 14 facilities in Region D, Soweto. These venues are: - the Elkah Sport Complex, Moletsane Sport Complex, Pimville Multipurpose Centre, Mapetla Sport Complex, Naledi Hall, Phefeni Recreation Centre, Meadowlands Zone 10 Hall, Dube Boxing Club, Kopanong Hall, Dobsonville Rugby Field, Pimville Golf Course, the Dobsonville Cricket Oval, the Nike Sport Field and Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre.

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