Financial services provider First National Bank (FNB) launched its fourth of five artificial pitches, in the Lawaai-kamp community of George, Western Cape, on February 27. Marking this significant occasion, former South African Football Association (Safa) president Dr Molefi Oliphant and acting executive Mayor, Mercia Draghoender, officially opened the FNB Lawaaikamp stadium. The stadium plans to benefit school children and football clubs in the surrounding community.
“The community of George is richer because of this stadium and the new weather pitch. Already we are home to the World Sevens Rugby Tour and are a former host of the Presidents Cup golf tournament, as well as the Woman’s World Cup of Golf. However, we now have a facility where our community can gather to play football in a safe, world-class facility,” says Draghoender.
The George municipality contributed R600 000 to the project and plans to spend an additional R750 000 to build ablution facilities. FNB’s artificial pitch initiative will ensure that the benefits of the tournament live beyond the FIFA World Cup and have a real impact on communities across the country.
Already, there are three full-sized synthetic pitches, which are operational in different municipalities across the country. One stadium is located at the Musunduzi municipality, in Pietermaritzburg. This stadium is also known as the FNB Wadley stadium in the township of Edenvale. This artificial pitch was officially opened by the 2010 FIFA World Cup Local Organising Committee chairperson, Dr Irvin Khoza.
Secondly, there is the FNB Makwarela stadium, in the Thohoyandou municipality of Limpopo province, officially opened by the current Safa president, Kirsten Nema-tandani. Lastly, there is the Rotary stadium, in the Ngangelizwe township of Mthatha, in the Eastern Cape.
FNB Public Sector Banking CEO Elizabeth Maepa says that one of the aims for the FIFA World Cup is to leave a lasting legacy of world-class sporting infrastructure in South Africa. “The FNB Lawaaikamp stadium will ensure that people, especially the youth living in George, are able to experience soccer first-hand on this pitch,” she explains.
She highlights that the FNB artificial pitches programme has a sustainability model that ensures increased efficiency by using the facilities through staging community activities, which include games between soccer clubs and schools, company sports days, sport legends coaching clinics, talent identification and coaching.
“As a bank, we want our communities to benefit and to play a significant role in the World Cup process. Initiatives such as FNB’s artificial pitches programme ensure the tournament’s benefits are reaped far and wide across our country,” she concludes.
The first game in the new stadium was also held on February 27, when the FNB-sponsored Amajimbo’s national under-17 team hosted their counterparts from Mozambique and participated in an international friendly. The last artificial pitch was launched on April 21, in Kimberley.