Soccer to save the rhino

ROB KNOWLES

SOCCER was the name of the game on Youth Day recently, when 12 teams turned out at the Port Alfred High School sports fields to play in the inaugural Stenden Save the Rhino soccer tournament.

The tournament was organised by six Stenden students who were prompted into action on learning of the plight of white and black rhino all around the world.

The event functioned as an awareness generator and fundraiser for African Educational Stories (AES), to print more Bongi’s Quest booklets, intended to educate youth across South Africa and internationally about rhino poaching.

According to figures released by Stop Rhino Poaching (www.stoprhinopoaching.com), as of June, 245 rhino had been killed in South Africa this year alone. Armed with this appalling knowledge, the Stenden students – Sharony Bergsma, Inge Mulder, Leonie Vorenkamp, Renee Vorenkamp, Marius Wenning and Martijn van den Berg – decided to do something about it.

CROSSING FROM THE WING: Bonga Njajula (right) of Team Sibuya sent a curling ball toward the right hand post as Muleki Mdambatya of the Stenden Staff team attempted to intercept at the Stenden Save the Rhino soccer tournament, held at the Port Alfred High School sports fields on Youth Day Picture: ROB KNOWLES

On the beautiful Saturday morning, the 12 teams turned out to play and, right from the first kick-off, it was obvious some players were taking the tournament seriously and were intent on winning.

Teams were restricted to eight players per side, and hockey goalposts were used across the width of the fields. The excitement and enthusiasm of both players and spectators was palpable. Players, representing local companies and other institutions, showed great skills and focus, as the ball travelled from one goalmouth to the other.

Teams were mixed gender and about a quarter of the players were female, who gave as good as they got in the field. With a cooling breeze coming from across the Indian Ocean, the crowds cheered for their favourite teams as the players fought valiantly to secure a win.

Sandra Jordan from Dublin, Ireland, who is currently a volunteer at the Kariega Game Reserve, said the tournament was a great idea, and she felt sure her team from Kariega would win. Unfortunately, that was not to be, but she said she enjoyed the day anyway.

Following a full day of knockout competition, third place winners Black Roses went home with a voucher for a delicious smoothie or milkshake from Lifestyle Cafes. Second place winner, FC Knudde from Stenden University, won a delicious Thai meal, also at Lifestyle Cafes.

First place and overall tournament winners, Pick and Pay, won an amazing Game Drive for 10 people sponsored by Kariega Game Reserve.

After the tournament, a very satisfied Bergsma said the day had been an amazing success.

“Save the Rhino with Stenden would like to thank Port Alfred High School for providing us the sport fields, Kariega Game Reserve and Lifestyle Cafes for taking care of the awards, Kowie FM for providing the best music in town, Mark from Leave it to me Garden for providing us with the goals, Kelly du Plessis and Ronique Prens from Stenden University who were willing to help throughout the day, the EarlyAct Club for selling the Bongi’s Quest booklets, the Kariega Game Reserve volunteers for selling their anti-poaching t-shirts, Bella Crabtree for her first aid services, Sharon and Kyle from Sha-Loui Dance Club for providing a wonderful salsa demonstration and lesson, and last but not least all the participants in the soccer tournament as well as referees and supporters for making this day to a complete success,” Bergsma said.

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