root - October 10, 2023

Playing on astro turf is a dream come true for young sports team

Peter Luhanga

Hockey-playing pupils in Dunoon who have been honing their skills on the tarmac outside the municipal hall, had a game-changing experience when they competed on astro turf recently. 

The hockey players, who were introduced to the sport by a non-profit company, experienced the game on astro turf when they had a friendly match against Table View Primary school on 30 September. 

Hockey is not a popular sport in Dunoon, and the lack of sport facilities is a significant challenge to those wanting to take up the sport.  

The Dunoon hockey team made up of learners from Sophakama Primary and Dunoon Primary schools, have proven their commitment to the sport by overcoming the hurdles in their way. 

On Saturday 30 September Denzil Dolley, founder of non-profit company Aslan Hope in Sport, said his organisation partners with six schools in Cape Town in order to work with schools in poorer areas. 

Dolley said the hockey friendly match at Table View Primary School served as a meaningful convergence between the schools, providing valuable opportunities for social development.

“We use sport as a tool to engage with young people and are big on showing God’s love through sport … it’s not only about the disadvantaged, it’s not about the rich, it’s about showing no partiality … everybody works together,” said Dolley.  

Table View Primary School principal Susan Akerman said the Dunoon learners had limited exposure to hockey, and no opportunity to play the sport on an astro turf field or even on grass.

“We are going to start building on this at least once a month. This to me is an unofficial development of hockey at grassroots level. Who knows, somebody out there could be a springbok player, could inspire someone,” said Akerman.

Table View primary school athletics and hockey coach Isaac Rubaya said together with Aslan Hope in Sport, he uses sport as a tool to instil hope in children.

Rubaya said the outreach friendly hockey match at Table View Primary School introduced the Table View hockey team to the concept of ubuntu, emphasising the idea of sharing.

He said he has been working with Aslan Hope in Sport for eight years, coaching children in Dunoon, Joe Slovo Park in Milnerton, and surrounding communities including Wolwerivier.

He said up to 100 children took part in sports training in Dunoon, while in Joe Slovo Park he works with around up to 70 children. 

He said the children participating in hockey are from grades 3 to 7.

“Our purpose is to show kids in underprivileged communities that they are also capable of playing hockey, which is mainly played in affluent schools. It’s a matter of providing sports equipment, it’s a matter of offering time to coach. These kids have never played hockey on an astro turf before, they practice on concrete.” 

He said as part of the programme, former primary school hockey players also offer assistance and assume leadership roles.

“When they get to high school we start equipping them with coaching skills,” said Rubaya.

Akerman said Rubaya, who is also the school’s English teacher, was always looking for opportunities to develop children in poorer communities.

Lelona Mpapa, 19, was trained as a hockey coach by Aslan Hope in Sport, and was in charge of the Dunoon team. 

“I love the sport because it gets me to meet with new people,” said Mpapa.

He says the sport is growing in popularity in Dunoon, and people come to cheer them when they train.

Kuhle Mkhalali, 12, a Grade 5 pupil at Sophakama Primary School, said playing on the Table View astro turf was fun. “It is a nice field, and we got to see new faces. We got to learn discipline and respect and we learnt new hockey techniques we didn’t know,” said Mkhalali. 

“We would like to have our own hockey field and hockey kit,” said Mpapa.

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