‘It’s the first time I ever feel like a professional athlete’ Mduduzi Maseko
The South African Sevens Rugby team captain Siviwe Soyizwapi was frustrated by the interruption of the team’s preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Games by the Covid-19 lockdown, and worried if they would ever take off. “We could not train and were in lockdown without any physical activities. It also affected our match readiness, because we did not have enough game time due to the lack of matches being played,” says Soyizwapi. But timely intervention through a grant sponsorship to The Sports Trust by the National Lotteries Commission has made all the difference. “Thank you to NLC for the funds. We as a team are back together again and can focus on getting ready for the Games in July 2021,” says Soyizwapi.
The National Lotteries Commission in South Africa introduced a funding programme to support deserving and potential medal prospect athletes with their preparations for the 2021 Games. The funds were made available for both Olympians and Paralympians. “The Sports Trust does not generate income from sales or other commercial interventions. Partnerships with organisations such as the NLC, private and public sector stakeholders are paramount to ensure its sustainability and ability to continue to drive and deliver on its mandate,” says Anita Mathews, executive director of The Sports Trust. “Grassroots development is key to our developmental mandate. There is a need for greater investment in this area, where programmes are supported with sustainability outcomes in mind and by design. There is room for improvement,” says Mathews. She says together with Sascoc (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee), athletes were identified across various sporting codes to qualify for f inancial support. “These selected athletes can cover their medical expenses, [gain] access to technical coaches and physios, upgrade their technical equipment, and [meet] other living expenses which they were unable to cover as a result of the pandemic and its consequences,” says Mathews.
The NLC monitors and regulates the running of various lottery competitions, including those organised by nonprofit organisations and by companies to raise funds and promote their goods and services. The National Lotteries Commission also serves as a grant funder, providing registered non-profit organisations with funding to establish projects that improve the lives of South Africans. The Sports Trust is one of the beneficiaries of the NLC funding. It was established in 1994 after discussions with former president Nelson Mandela and late minister of sport Steve Tshwete, to integrate sport as a vehicle that helps bring about positive transformation and social cohesion in a country desperately in need of healing and stability.
The provision of the funds by the NLC has been a Mathews says The Sports Trust liaised with the athletes for the design and samples of clothing, with sizes and specifications aligned to their needs as expressed, including the distribution thereof. All the interviews conducted to date were done utilising liaison and engagement with the athletes to check their availability and training schedules. “As a strategically placed implementation partner for sports development in disadvantaged communities, the Trust can assist companies with their alignment towards broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) requirements. “As a PBO and NGO, The Trust can issue Section 18A Tax Certificates to their donors, with the mandate to facilitate sports delivery at grassroots and national levels,” Mathews says.
The Trust was formed with its vision and mandate to provide sporting infrastructure, equipment and programmes aimed at developing the young people of South Africa. This positive influence will help to provide hope, inspiration, opportunities and platforms for them to advance their sporting ambitions and dreams. The key focus of the Trust is to act as an implementation partner acting on behalf of all its stakeholders, donors, and partners, ensuring due diligence and the effective delivery of sustainable development projects within South Africa’s disadvantaged communities.
Current funding is focused on being the implementation partner to enable the Medal Prospect Programme, which has been identified by NLC and Sascoc for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2021. Some of the other financial contributions over the past years include supporting the completion of the Daveyton Golf Clubhouse in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng; and the upgrade of the outdoor tennis courts at Hendrick Makapan High School in Moretele Local Municipality, North West. The Sports Trust does not generate income from sales or other commercial interventions. Partnerships with organisations such as the NLC and private and public sector stakeholders are paramount to ensure its sustainability and ability to continue to drive and deliver on its mandate. 2020 was the year of the planned Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics Games, but as with all other major sporting events, it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Just imagine the disappointment of all the athletes who made countless sacrifices in preparation for this once-off event; 2020 might have been the final year for many top athletes who were nearing the end of their careers and might have reached the ultimate peak in their performances,” says Mathews.
Apart from the emotional disappointment, there were also the financial pressures as felt by most athletes in the absence of competitions and prize monies. The majority of athletes were facing dire circumstances at home, including the stress putting a hold on their future sporting career. welcome relief for so many of the athletes, who have expressed their heartfelt gratitude and appreciation. More than 80 have been identified and benefitted from the programme since its inception in October 2020; it will continue up to August 2021. “Covid-19 and the lockdown were very difficult; it took away lives and livelihood. Many people did not have finances to support their livelihood. My preparations were delayed by another year due to the postponement of the Paralympic Games 2020. Thank you NLC for the financial support; now I can focus on my preparations for the Games,” says Mpumelelo Mhlongo. Mathews expressed her gratitude towards the NLC for its financial aid to the most vulnerable communities. “Thank you to the National Lotteries Commission.
We witness every day the tangible results and outcomes of your support and interventions. The testimonials from the beneficiaries speak volumes of the great work that you are doing in our country. We salute you,” she added. She added that The Sports Trust is cognisant of the global economic downturn and understands that funders and donors are consolidating their budgets, efforts and focus. The Sports Trust has enabled the installation and building of state-of-the-art multi-purpose sport court facilities, which offer five codes of sport on one court: five-a-side soccer (Futsal), netball, basketball, volleyball and tennis. “We strongly believe that infrastructure investments in our multi-purpose sports courts have longer durability, value and are able to reach a large number of people within surrounding communities.
The courts accommodate five different sporting codes for male and female athletes, who are able to advance their love for their sport uninterrupted, whether abled or disabled, and require minimal maintenance,” Mathews says. Grateful athlete Anika Pretorius underlines the significance of the NLC contribution by saying: “It is the first time I feel like a professional athlete.” — Mukurukuru Media