FACULTY OF HUMAN AND SOCIAL SCIENCES
NORTH WEST UNIVERSITY'S SOCCER INSTITUTE - TAKING THE BEAUTIFUL GAME TO A HIGHER LEVEL
NWU's Mafikeng campus becoming centre of excellence for soccer development; combined with academic studies, life skills and mentoring
Fashioned around the North West University's highly successful Rugby Institute, the Soccer Institute is based at the university's Mafikeng campus and currently has 56 first, second and third year students enrolled in its three year programme that is conducted in tandem with a recognized academic course at the university.
Just as the Rugby Institute at North West University's Potchefstroom campus has produced several Super 14 players and Springboks over the years, the Soccer Institute is moulding the standout players, coaches and administrators of the future.
Soccer Institute’s aim is not only to develop soccer players using the latest training methods, technology and science, but also to produce well rounded individuals who have completed a university curriculum, and receive life skills training and mentoring.
Another important element of the institute's ethos is giving back to the community through coaching clinics, identifying talented young players all over the country and using the game of soccer to provide motivational training course for inmates at correctional facilities.
Soccer ability needs to be matched by academic ability
Students who are accepted for the institute need to have considerable soccer ability and a matriculation exemption to ensure that they will be able to thrive in the dual environment of soccer development and academic study. Students receive a full bursary to cover their entire academic programme and associated living costs. While some study law or accounting, others enroll for a variety of other degree and diploma courses on offer at the university.
Of last year's 18 graduates, one has been taken on by the institute as a manager and another is being developed as an academic who will be furthering his studies in Sports Science.
"We are extremely pleased with the excellent start that the institute has made and we believe this creates the platform for a sustainable future,"
"While some of our students may go on to become professional soccer players, others may go into coaching or administration, and others still may pursue totally different careers, drawing on the soccer training and academic studies they have completed during their three years at the university. Soccer careers can be short, so it is important that our students have specific skills in other areas to fall back on."
Significantly, one of the major funders of the institute has been the English Premier League which granted sponsorship in 2007. This demonstrates the high regard that is held for the institute and its undoubted potential.
The vision in 2007 was to establish a facility that could become a centre of excellence within five years. This grand vision is well on the way to being achieved.
"Our aim was also to elevate the status of the university's Mafikeng campus. There was no infrastructure for the institute when we started, this has been developed over the past four years and is still being enhanced on an ongoing basis," he said.
Towards building its future, the institute is seeking to recruit four lecturers and is aiming to establishing Bachelors, Masters and Phd courses in sports science with a specific focus on soccer.
Soccer Institute's players have already achieve several accolades
From a soccer performance point of view, the institute has had a highly successful start with several notable achievements since 2007.
Over this period it has produced five provincial players, three South African (Amajita )under 20 players and nine squad members for the South African universities team. What's more, the institute's team are the current SA university champions and recently came third in the Vodacom league without any professionals in their ranks.
"Coming from a zero base, our players have achieved a lot in a short time. Just as the Rugby Institute has done, we believe some of our players will go on to make a name for themselves at the highest level,"
While the institute's major focus is on grooming its own students for future careers, it is also playing an important role in grassroots soccer development around the country - especially in North West Province.
As part of its social responsibility emphasis, it has put 150 school teachers through a programme focusing on coaching, refereeing and managing soccer teams and how to run a soccer league. This had led to the formation of the League League. The top 16 teams in the league progress to playing in the Legacy Festival which is held at the Soccer Institute's Mafikeng grounds.
Recently, the Soccer Institute also teamed up with FIFA and SAFA to run a coaching seminar and a soccer festival at its Mafikeng campus.
"There's no doubt that the World Cup has elevated the status and recognition of soccer in South Africa and around Africa and we believe this will generate strong ongoing interest in the sport, providing lots of budding talent for the Soccer Institute in the years ahead.