In South Africa, soccer dreams do come true
The Dreamfields project provides soccer equipment and playing fields to poor school children to celebrate the World Cup
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
VANDERBIJLPARK, SOUTH AFRICA
The boys come from townships and rural schools where there is hardly enough money to pay for books, let alone sports equipment. But by the time the morning is done, each boy will have had his moment on the soccer pitch, sharing one little bit of the excitement that has overtaken this country as the 2010 FIFA World Cup games begin.
Organized by a local charity called the Dreamfields Project, the tournament is part of an effort to create a level playing field – as it were – for sports in a sports-mad country where, unfortunately, there is not equal access to something as simple as playtime. Backed by 50 large companies and 100 small companies, the Dreamfields Project has organized hundreds of similar soccer tournaments around the country, handing out some 20,000 soccer uniforms and pairs of shoes, and giving children a reason to hope that they can excel at sports.
“It’s about dreaming; not every day is going to be just like the day before,” says John Perlman, founder and director of the Dreamfields Project, watching two teams compete for their chance at a trophy.
“If children get positive recognition, they have to go in search of more, and so this thing will continue,” Mr. Perlman adds. “Children in Vanderbijlpark have a right to play sports; they have a right to a day like this.”