Would you give the kids five weeks holidays if the FIFA World Cup came to your country? Let me know what you think, after reading what’s going on in South Africa.
There were a lot of smiling kids in South Africa Thursday. It was the first day off from school, as the 2010 FIFA World Cup has been turned into a kind of National holiday. The kids stay home throughout the tournament.
With my CBC-TV crew in tow, I had a chance to visit the people who live in the Masiphumelele township, about 45 minutes outside of Cape Town. The main road was blocked off for an afternoon of soccer games. The little kids made special hats with the colors from various countries, and they even had a Gold Cup on hand.
Around the corner from the game, there was another bunch players kicking a ball around.
And down the road from them, there was yet another group of kids playing a game of soccer with makeshift nets.
Earlier in the week, we had a chance to meet some children living on a farm in wine country, near Franshhoek. They’ve been part of a special program using soccer to help them stay active, as well as helping them with things like geography.
The program is organized by a group called the Anna Foundation and operates on nine farms. The kids here adopted France as their team, as each group was given a particular country to represent when they played in a tournament scheduled for June 11 – the same day as the World Cup Opener.
Up the hill in Cape Town, the children at the exclusive private Reddam House Atlantic Seabord School celebrated their last full day of school by playing soccer and field hockey.
While there’s been some criticism about the decision to close schools (many families aren’t set up to look after their kids over the break), the World Cup will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the minds of young South Africans.