MOORS waved goodbye to four new friends last week who had been visiting the club from Meadowlands Academy FC in Soweto, South Africa.
Three of their young players had been training with Moors Reserves and Under 18’s squad for the past month under the watchful eye of their coach Laka ‘Chippa’ Dira and such has been their progress, that they came on as substitutes in Solihull’s first pre season warm up against Gresley FC.
Dira has been running the Academy since 2010 having played for a number of South African sides including PJ Star, Hellenic and Orlando Pirates.
Meadowlands FC is a non-profit concern with 140 youngsters signed up, but they are desperate to get their senior squad into one of the regions established leagues so that they can provide a sporting facility for the local community.
This would be used by other sports clubs in the area and apart from the opportunities it would give the children so far as sports talent is concerned, it would also provide a deterrent for potential criminal and substance abuse activities in the community.
This came to the attention of Moors supporter Bob Holt who is the Chairman of the Footprints Foundation, a charity passionate about and deeply committed to helping those people in the most need both in the UK and abroad.
Nine years ago the Foundation identified a need in South Africa and a volunteering programme commenced in 2007. Footprints supports three orphanages and the Masibambane Community Care and Support organisation. Amongst many things it tackles disease and chronic food shortages, whilst providing counselling, education and training.
Bob’s interest in football manifested itself in January 2014 when Footprints entered into an agreement with Arsenal Football Club and Johannesburg Housing Company in South Africa to sponsor a three-year program to supply young Arsenal soccer coaches, under the Arsenal gap program.
The feedback following the ‘gappers’ first assignment has been excellent in helping to change lives. It was no surprise that Bob mentioned the Meadowlands initiative to Solihull Moors executive Mike Turl and in April Mike and Marcus Bignot flew out to see things for themselves.
“I felt humbled to see the conditions in which the youngsters play their football,” said Bignot after the trip.
“Whilst they have nothing like the facilities we take for granted in this country their passion for the game is unsurpassed and they demonstrate technical ability which is superior to the standards here.
“There is a pool of talent waiting there and if the right players could adapt to our way of football they would be welcome here. Community Moors involvement is at its very first stage but the prospects are exciting.”
The three players involved in this first stay at Solihull are Matlakala Kopano, a 17-year-old midfielder, Ngema Nimrod also 17 and a striker, and Tshabalala Lunga, and 18-year-old right winger.
“Our three players have never had passports before, let alone played outside the area in which they were born,” added coach Dira.
“What Solihull Moors have done for us is a miracle, a gift from God. We cannot thank the coaches, Mike and Marcus enough.”