Across South Africa soccer is a universal activity that unites communities and provides a valuable outlet for young people, especially in lower income areas. Colechester FC is one of the football clubs operating out of Eldorado Park that is making a difference through soccer, and the people of Office Automation company PanSolutions have stepped in to assist with the sponsorship of soccer kit for the players.
Mark Van Wyk, an educator at Kliptown Secondary School, established the club in 1995. Van Wyk says, “I have seen Eldorado Park, once a beautiful place, becoming infested with drugs. I had seen how children had become “lost souls”. Something had to be done and I saw a need to establish a soccer team in our area.”
Colchester FC aims to keep the youths off the street, away from negative influence such as substance abuse and crime. The club aims to improve social and spiritual attitudes in general by promoting a positive approach toward sport and winning. Despite financial challenges Mark and his wife have succeeded in keeping the club alive, adding more divisions including Under 8, 10, 12, 17 and senior teams, providing players with the opportunity to compete at regional level, and touring to as far afield as Klerksdorp and Kimberley to play against other teams.
Mark, who has completed his Level 2 SAFA training, approached Gasant Abdulla – General Manager of PanSolutions’ Technical Division – for assistance. Gasant grew up in Eldorado Park and recognised the importance of the company to step in. With the assistance of Steve Tetluk, Branch Manager at PanSolutions Midrand, and Ronel Erasmus, Communications Manager at PanSolutions, they succeeded in securing a sponsorship of R34 864.00 to pay for soccer kit of all the teams, as well as player’s registration cards.
“What a lot of people don’t realise,” says Gasant, “is that Mark often provides a meal for the players. Sometimes these youngsters have not eaten anything, but they know they will get a meal if they play soccer. So they’re also running a small feeding scheme on the side.”
Steve Tetluk played a role in mobilising the people in the company to help make the project happen. He says that despite there being no SED budget left for the year due to prior investments, appropriately the company came together as a team to make it happen.
Steve says, “We felt this was an important project to get behind in order to help keep kids off the streets, give them some food in their bellies and to give them an outlet like sport to help build confidence and self-worth. So, although there was no money left in the kitty, our sales people pitched in to commit an amount of money from each sales team. By coming together, we were able to achieve the required amount.”
The appeal of this project, says Steve, is in the tangible results that emerge from it.
“It’s a small thing to do, but it’s a big thing for each kid,” says Steve. “It’s important to realise that although it’s just a uniform, it means the kids can actually represent their club in its colours. Hopefully these kids will continue to develop and perhaps some may even go on to play professionally.”
Like many corporates, PanSolutions invests significantly in social upliftment and development. Through projects like this, the people behind the company have proved that wherever there’s a will to help, there’s a way to make a difference.