Former soccer stars Helman Mkhalele and Kaitano Tembo visited Rhodes University on Thursday to speak out against xenophobia and give supporters the chance to have their pictures taken with the Absa Premiership trophy outside the library.
Mkhalele, who played as a midfielder for Orlando Pirates and South Africa and now works as a SAFA coaching instructor, was impressed with the atmosphere on campus.
“This is my first time here and I feel excited and inspired. University is where our future leaders are and at Rhodes I see beautiful, young, energetic South Africans embracing education irrespective of their colour [race],” Mkhalele said.
Mkhalele explained that Absa had organised the event to inspire upcoming footballers and “to send a message to South Africa that we are saying no to xenophobia.”
A 1994 Premier Soccer League, 1995 CAF Champions League and 1996 Africa Cup of Nations winner, Mkhalele claimed that Absa chose him and Tembo to speak out against xenophobia because ex-footballers “have a powerful voice” in society.
He stated that any aspiring footballers have the potential to make their dreams a reality if they follow his example of training hard and being honest with themselves.
Tembo, who played internationally for Zimbabwe and now coaches several youngsters with high hopes in the SuperSport United U/19 and reserve teams, is happy with the progress that youth football in South Africa is making.
A former SuperSport United captain and centre-back himself, he hailed Thursday’s event as a success.
“We managed to get through to many young minds. It is important to start with them if you want to spread a message to all people,” Tembo, who called time on his playing career in 2006, stated.
Rhodes students were delighted to have the chance to touch the Absa Premiership trophy and to speak to two footballing icons. Meanwhile, Mkhalele and Tembo will be hoping that their message against xenophobia made a substantial impact on the crowd.
Article by: Leon Solms
Photo by: Lauren Mulligan
Caption: Fans line up to have their picture taken with football legends Hellman Mkhelele and Kaitano Tembo for the Absa Premiership #ProudlyAfrican Trophy Tour at Rhodes University, Grahamstown.
Source: Oppidan press