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Giving Girls Goals; Soweto’s Soccer Coaching Clinic

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A recent soccer clinic in Soweto had former Liverpool F.C. player John Barnes coaching young girls to become the future stars of Africa.

It’s high noon but the skies are overcast in Soweto on this Wednesday afternoon in October. It is business as usual in this urban Johannesburg township but as we approach Meadowlands, it starts to drizzle.

But rain or shine, at the Fiat Sports Centre here, a group of over 40 girls aged between 12 and 14 are oblivious to everything around them. Their eyes are trained on the ball as they make the most of the day out on the field with visiting retired Jamaican-born professional footballer John Barnes.

It’s a soccer coaching clinic with the star and the girls are wearing big smiles and bright red outfits.

The well-maintained field is separated into rectangles so the groups are smaller and easier to manage. Each section has a coach, balls and marking cones for the different skill-building tasks planned for the day.

Barnes pays close attention to the teams, occasionally offering advice to both the coaches and players.

“It is about empowering young girls and making them feel confident about expressing themselves. It is about making them feel confident that there are no barriers that stop them from achieving their goals,” he says.

The former Liverpool Football Club player and English Football Hall of Fame inductee has been playing football for as long as he can remember., so he only knows too well the preoccupations of these young minds.

He moved to England at the age of 12, and joined the professional ranks at 17 when he signed for Watford in 1981. Barnes later moved to Liverpool F.C. in his early 20s where he played for a decade.

Today, in Soweto, he motivates the girls on the field, goading them on to perform better than boys.

“You have to separate football when you talk about it in South Africa, into men’s football and women’s football. Men’s football is really well-advanced, they have huge support, lots of money, great players, but women’s football is just starting out. It is pleasing to see that young girls are now given an opportunity because young girls in Africa are told that they do not play football but they actually do,” says Barnes.

John Barnes. Photo By Gypseenia Lion

The girls receive coaching as part of the Goal global community initiative by Standard Chartered Bank. In South Africa, the program was launched in Tshwane in April 2015 and has since reached over 6,000 girls. The target for 2018 is just over 3,000 girls between Tshwane and Soweto.

In partnership with Altus Sport, an NGO developing youth and sport, the 2018 Soweto program includes this special interaction with Barnes.

Former Banyana Banyana player, Thando Dlamini, started coaching at the clinic this year. She says some of the girls lack discipline, and stresses how support from family members and the community can go a long way to help.

“You hardly see any of the parents coming to support the girls. I think if they came to the games and watch the girls, they will realize it is not about the misconceptions. The behavior has changed in some of the girls I worked with. Soccer teaches you discipline,” says Dlamini.

The star of the day at the soccer clinic, Mosima Magome, a Grade 8 student, agrees. She says she has been feeling more confident since starting soccer.

“People would always tease me because I am the shortest in class,” she says. The teenager looks up to global icon, Lionel Messi, because “he never quits, even when he misses a goal”.

Commenting on the general lack of interest in skills-building programs, Altus Sport’s Operations Manager Samantha Pennells says local professional sportsmen should give back to the community as well.

“You got a guy from Liverpool, like John Barnes. He is here in the community; it is not his community but he is here giving advice, giving tips. It was not just about sport, it was about life,” she says.

South African football veteran Steve Sekano, a guest at the soccer clinic, and Barnes share jokes on the sidelines.

The former Moroka Swallows Football Club midfielder runs a foundation within the community that aims to get the youth involved in sport. With hopes that sport will keep them out of trouble, Sekano advocates the need for more facilities in the area. He says that as a former professional, it is his duty to give back.

“People ask me why soccer is not the same as when you guys played. I say it is the same. But when you talk about soccer today, you talk about money. Because our players are earning a lot of money today. Those days, we were not earning a lot of money, we were committed. But our players need to up their game; our game must grow,” says Sekano.

For Geraldine Matchaba, Head of Corporate Affairs, Brand & Marketing, South Africa and Southern Africa, at Standard Chartered Bank, the corporate world too has a responsibility to prioritize community-based issues. “Those are people who are your future employees, they are your clients and they are future leaders. You have to play a role. It is what we are doing with the Goal program,” she says.

Thoko Phakati, Sports Field Manager, is in charge of operations at the Fiat Sports Centre. The space that used to be a dumping site is now accessible to the community free of charge.

“We believe they also deserve a chance, why is it that only places like the Wanderers Stadium are supposed to look beautiful? So we are doing as much as we can here to give kids a chance. We have people like Steve Sekano who grew up here and became successful but if he were to tell you his story, you will find that he also had challenges growing up,” she says.

Soweto truly is the home of South African football, and the young girls here prove they too can chase a ball for 90 minutes. There is a long conversation to be had about policies that prioritize men over women in sport, but in the meantime, programs such as Goal and footballers like Barnes continue to make sure that new stars are born on the muddy fields of Soweto.

 

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Namibia To Kick It Up A Notch

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The Welwitschias are committed to world cup glory, and to elevate other structures within Namibian rugby.


Namibia’s 20-year hunt   for a victory at the Rugby World Cup will continue in Japan later this year, where Africa’s second best rugby nation face a daunting pool that includes ‘big brother’ South Africa and defending champions New Zealand.

Namibia have shown a marked improvement in recent tournaments and swept to qualification for the 2019 World Cup in emphatic style by lifting the Rugby Africa Gold Cup, a competition that does not include the Springboks.

Under Welsh coach Phil Davies, who will be leading the team for the second time at the global showpiece tournament, Namibian rugby has improved in leaps and bounds, even while the country’s union struggles with funds to keep the game afloat.

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The Welwitschias, as the side are known, have lost all 19 previous games at the World Cup since their first qualification in 1999, but in the last tournament in England scored their most points (70) and conceded their fewest (174) in a pool that also included eventual winners New Zealand.

“We are positive we can continue to make improvements at the World Cup and get that first win,” Corrie Mensah, president of the Namibia Rugby Union, told FORBES AFRICA in an exclusive interview from Windhoek.

“Together with the head coach [Davies], we have mapped out a plan for the build-up to the tournament and already have most of our players together in camp.

“We have a tough program, the guys know they have to work hard to be part of our World Cup plans, but the preparation is there, the structures are in place and we are looking forward to a big year for Namibian rugby.”

The side open their World Cup campaign against Italy, in Higashiōsaka on September 22, before a clash with the Springboks in Toyota, six days later and another encounter against the All Blacks in Tokyo on October 6.

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But the game the team will, realistically, be targeting for their first victory is the match-up with fellow minnows Canada, in their final pool match in Kamaishi a week later.

“Our main objective is to get that first World Cup win,” Mensah says. “That would be a big moment for Namibian rugby and another sign that we are on an upward curve. I think then we could call our tournament a success.

“The second objective is to try and be competitive against the All Blacks, Springboks and Italy. If we can do that, with a fraction of the resources of those sides, then we can say we are punching above our weight.”

Namibia will compete in the 2019 World Rugby Nations Cup in Uruguay in June along with the hosts, Romania and Russia, which will give them three matches against fellow second-tier nations.

They then defend their title in the African Gold Cup, before playing a couple of World Cup warm-up games that have yet to be confirmed.

The team will also play in South Africa’s domestic SuperSport Rugby Challenge, a tournament that has proven vital in giving their players quality, competitive matches that they would, simply, not get at home.

But while the team continues to show improvement on the pitch, Mensah admits that it has been a hard slog off it to keep Namibian rugby’s development goals in place.

“The biggest challenge we face is a financial one and the allocation of grants from World Rugby should be used in the right areas,” Mensah says.

“High performance grants should go to high performance protocols, development funds likewise. Making sure we do that is a major commitment we have made.”


Corrie Mensah

Mensah has also committed to improving other structures within Namibian rugby, away from the senior men’s team.

“We have had major difficulties, with the economic slump in the country, in terms of attracting sponsorship, which has had a major impact on our league structures.

“Women’s rugby is non-existent in Namibia, but it is part of our strategic plan to get it off the ground.

The place to start is with regional teams, which we are seeking to do this year, and then, hopefully, in future that filters down to club sides.”

Mensah is also hoping to improve Namibia’s Sevens structures, with that version of the game growing in popularity around the world.

“With Sevens … it is about creating a whole new culture around it because it is not something that is traditional to Namibian rugby.

“It is part of our three and five-year strategic plans, but again the funding for that kind of development is a challenge. We need to get players into an academy structure and work with them constantly, but that all costs a lot of money.”

In many ways, Namibia, with a population of 2.6-million is already punching above their weight just to be at the World Cup, especially with their fiscal challenges.

But how far they can go in terms of developing rugby in the country is an exciting prospect, and a good showing in Japan will confirm that they are a nation on the rise.

-Nick Said

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Simidele Adeagbo: What I Learned From The Most Terrifying Winter Olympics Sport

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At the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, I became the first African and black woman to compete in the daring sport of Skeleton.


Skeleton, in which athletes hurl themselves on a sled, head first, down a frozen ice track at 80 miles per hour, is considered by some to be the most terrifying Winter Olympics sport. I never imagined I would find myself hurtling down an icy hill on a metal, carbon fiber tray of sorts with no brakes, safety belt or steering mechanism.

But when I discovered the sport about 100 days before the Olympics, I was motivated to take it up in hopes to inspire others, break barriers and shift the narrative around Africa on the world’s biggest stage. I ultimately changed the course of Olympic history and learned about the power of having a vision and pushing the limits to break into unknown spaces.

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At the beginning of my journey, I asked myself two very simple questions. ‘Why Not Me? And Why Not Now?’ I knew that someone had to make history as the first African woman to compete in the sport of Skeleton at the Winter Olympics and I didn’t see any reason why it couldn’t be me and it couldn’t be right then. Despite coming from Nigeria, a place with no ice or snow and having no prior knowledge of Skeleton, I had a vision to become the first African woman to compete in Olympic Skeleton.

We often hesitate to establish a vision for the things we want to do thinking that someone else will do it, while also waiting for a perfect time for it to be done. As best-selling author Mel Robbins notes in The 5 Second Rule, “If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within five seconds or your brain will kill it.” Through my unconventional path, I learned how to keep my vision alive by taking action instantly.

As I pushed to break barriers, I also learned the value of embracing chaos and how to keep moving forward. In the sport of Skeleton, you’re on the edge of danger and control at any given time. This taught me to expect and appreciate the chaos that comes with life.

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Before every run, I take down the track, I have a game plan. But when navigating down massive twists and turns going at speeds faster than cars travel on the freeway, things don’t always go as planned.

Through my experiences on the Skeleton track, I’ve learned to embrace life’s chaotic, unplanned moments and adapt as needed along the way. In the same way, as I was beginning the sport, I would painfully bump into the walls on my way down the track. These are called “hits”. Hits slow you down and are to be avoided as much as possible. But in Skeleton, just as in life, hits are inevitable.

On this journey, I learned to take the hits, no matter how big or small and keep pushing forward.

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Finally, in Skeleton, flying down the track at crazy speeds, you have to make decisions in split seconds and the natural reaction is to panic. However, panicking is counterproductive as it causes the body to tense up and actually slows the sled down. Remaining cool, calm and collected is the best thing a Skeleton athlete can do.

With more time in the sport, I ultimately learned to trust my instincts, relax and enjoy the ride. Perhaps this is the most important lesson of all as this has become my personal ethos for achieving success in life.

By taking action instantly, embracing chaos and relentlessly pushing forward and relaxing and trusting our instincts, we can all apply these winning strategies for high performance in business and life. Who knew you could learn so much from the most terrifying Winter Olympics sport?

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Masters Champion Tiger Woods: By The Numbers

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The 83rd Masters will go down as one of the most memorable events in modern golf history.

Many fans point to Jack Nicklaus’ unexpected run to a sixth green jacket in 1986 at 46 years old as the ultimate Augusta moment, but Tiger Woods, who has been chasing Nicklaus’ legacy his entire career, might have just topped the Golden Bear.

Woods, decked in his trademark red, won the Masters by one stroke Sunday, holding off a stacked leaderboard of seasoned, elite golfers. It was a moment that many sports fans thought would never happen after a series of back surgeries pushed Woods to the brink of retirement.

Americans love to see their brightest stars fall, and few have fallen from a higher point than Woods, who was the most marketable athlete on the planet for a decade-plus. But the one thing Americans seem to love even more is the redemption story. Sports fans had waited 11 years for Woods to take another step toward Nicklaus’ hallowed record of 18 major titles.

Woods’ Tour Championship win last year was an indicator of what was to come, and he’s once again a marketing force. Woods and Phil Mickelson had a $9 million winner-take-all pay-per-view event in November, and Woods signed a multiyear content deal last fall with Discovery’s new over-the-top streaming service, GolfTV. He will do weekly golf instructional videos and is set to do a series of showdown-type events in Asia as part of the Discovery partnership.

Here are some of the numbers behind Woods and his history at Augusta.

4: Back surgeries for Woods.

5: Wins at Augusta for Woods, but the most recent was 14 years ago. It is the longest gap between Masters wins ever.

11: It has been just shy of 11 years since Woods won his last major tournament (2008 U.S. Open).

11: Number of times Woods has won the Player of the Year award.

12: Woods’ current rank in the World Golf Ranking.

16: Woods’ rank last year among the world’s highest-paid athletes. He earned $43.3 million.

20: Woods has made the cut in all 20 of his Masters appearances.

21: Woods was the youngest Masters champion ever when he won in 1997 at 21 years old by a record 12 strokes.

35: Number of players who had won a major title since Woods’ last Masters win in 2005. That span covered 55 tournaments.

43: Woods is the second-oldest Masters champion, with only Nicklaus having been older when he put on the green jacket.

81: Career PGA Tour wins for Woods, one shy of Sam Snead’s record.

281: Consecutive weeks Woods was ranked No. 1 in the world between 2005 and 2010.

$1.19 million: Payout for a bettor who put down $85,000 at 14/1 odds at William Hill’s Las Vegas sportsbook on Woods to win. “It’s great to see Tiger back. It’s a painful day for William Hill—our biggest golf loss ever—but a great day for golf,” says Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill U.S.’s director of trading.

$2.07 million: Woods’ prize money for the 2019 Masters win.

$20 million: Value of his yacht Privacy.

$20 million: Estimated value of Woods’ PGA Tour pension plan.

$800 millionEstimated net worth for Woods.

$1.5 billion: Cumulative career earnings for Woods, including prize money, endorsements, appearance fees and golf course design fees.

-Kurt Badenhausen;Forbes Staff

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