Players galore at football festival

THE GM Nafa Easter Soccer tournament, which kicks off at 11am at the Gelvandale Stadium today, will see the largest gathering of junior soccer players in the country.

Teams ranging from under-6 to U18 will field 1200 girls and boys representing more than 40 teams, while 480 seniors will compete in the tournament proper.

At the gala opening this evening all the players, both juniors and seniors, will participate in a spectacular parade led by the legendary St George's band.

General Motors (GMSA) returns as the title sponsor after an absence of almost 20 years when the company was know as Delta, while Coca-Cola Fortune, Shukumo Flooring, ACDelco and Standard Bank are sponsoring the junior section.

The gala opening includes live performances from award-winning R&B outfits Genesix and Chapter 3 as well as a dance section showcased by BAMA award-winning freestyle dancer Angel and the Vandelyders dance academy.

Well-known actor Maurice Page will also make a guest appearance.

The finale will be a laser- themed show and the ever- popular fireworks display.

The tournament itself includes coaching clinics and life skills workshops.

"GMSA has had a long association with the tournament and its sponsorship of this year's event will go mostly towards club fees and kit for young soccer players through the Help Our Children Play sport development initiative", GMSA corporate communications manager Gishma Johnson said. "Participation in sports is one way to instil discipline in the youth and take their focus off the drugs and gangsterism prevalent on the streets of the northern areas."

Help Our Children Play is the brainchild of a group of local entrepreneurs who are launching the campaign in response to social problems of crime, gangsterism, drugs, alcoholism and child abuse, with a particular focus on Port Elizabeth's northern areas, which have been plagued by a rise in drug- and gang-related incidents.

The organisation will use the Easter Soccer Tournament, an annual highlight on the northern areas sporting and social calendar, as a high-profile platform to kick off the campaign, which aims to raise funds to reduce the costs of soccer participation for underprivileged youngsters from the area.

Help Our Children Play chief executive Ashton Prince said the project was a "call-to-action campaign" to encourage members of the community and business owners to help children fight social ills.

"The current average cost for a junior to participate in the game of football is R900 per season. Considering that the bulk of our community battles to feed their households, these costs are the first to be dumped," Prince said.

"The campaign will also support life skills programmes to help our kids think beyond their circumstances." - Mogan Segadavan

THE fixtures for the Nafa Easter Junior soccer festival are:

TODAY: Stadium: 11am – U10 Wolves v Park United, 11.30 – Blackpool v Glenville, noon – Saints v Helenvale, 12.30pm – Westlake v Stardrift Gelvan 1: 11am – U12 Ebenezer v Windvogel All Stars, 11.30am – Stardrift v Fairdene, noon – U14 Rangers v Upcoming Stars, 12.40pm – U16 Bay City v Fairdene Gelvan 2: 11am – U12 Saints v Fairview Rovers, 11.30am Booysens Pride v Hotspurs, noon – U14 Park United v Swallows, 12.40pm – U16 Rangers v Shatterprufe, 1.30pm – U18 Bloom Callies v Blackpool Gelvan 3: 11am – U16 Lads v FC Winners, 11.50am – U14 Bloom Callies v Windvogel All Stars, 12.30pm – Helenvale v Fairview Rovers, 1.30pm – Swallows v Hotspurs Errol Heynes Field: 11.45 – U14 Booysens Pride v Chatty United, 12.30pm – Bellevue v Sou-Side, 1.30pm – Glenville v Chatty United TOMORROW: Stadium: 9am – U12 Fairdene v Windvogel All Stars, 9.30am – Stardrift v Ebenezer, 10am – Hotspurs v Fairview Rovers, 10.30am – Booysens Pride v Saints Gelvan 1: 9am – U10 Stardrift v Glenville, 9.30am – Westlake v Blackpool, 10am – U16 FC Winners v Fairview Rovers, 10.45am – Lads v Helenvale, 11.30am – U18 Hotspurs v Blackpool, 12.25pm – Swallows v Bloom Callies Gelvan 2: 9am – U10 Helenvale v Park United, 9.30am – U14 Swallows v Upcoming Stars, 10.05 – Rangers v Park United, 10.45am – U16 Shatterprufe v Fairdene, 11.30am – U18 Chatty United v Sou-Side Gelvan 3: 9am – U10 Saints v Wolves, 9.30am – U14 Windvogel All v Blackpool, 10.05am – Bloom Callies v Booysens Pride, 10.45am – U16 Rangers v Bay City, 11.30am – U18 Glenville v Bellevue SUNDAY: Stadium: 8am – U18 Hotspurs v Bloom Callies Errol Heynes field: 12.30pm – U14 Swallows v Rangers, 1.20pm – Bloom Callies v Chatty United Gelvan 1: 8am – U18 Glenville v Sou-Side, 12.30pm – U10 Saints v Park United, 1pm – Helenvale v Wolves, 1.30pm – U16 Rangers v Fairdene, 2.30pm – Shatterprufe v Bay City Gelvan 2: 8am – U18 Swallows v Blackpool, 12.30pm – U10 Westlake v Glenville, 1pm – U12 Stardrift v Windvogel All Stars, 1.30pm – Booysens Pride v Fairview Rovers, 2pm – U16 FC Winners v Helenvale Gelvan 3: 8am – U18 Chatty United v Bellevue, 12.30pm – U10 Stardrift v Blackpool, 1pm – U12 Fairdene v Ebenezer, 1.30pm – Hotspurs v Saints, 2pm – U16 Lads v Fairview Rovers