CMG Content partnership   19 January 2019

“Our intention is to touch more lives every day."

How important is football to rural communities around the world? Thapelo’s answer is loud and clear – it’s the glue that holds communities together - a platform which helps the youth find a right path in their lives and start giving back to of engaging with society.

Growing up in a poor area of South Africa, he saw how football sparked a sense of belonging in members of the community. When he moved to London, he took the opportunity to support communities around the world through sport, as it brings people together and unites them with a collective passion.

As a founder of the Arthur Tseleng Foundation, Thapelo partnered with the UK based football clubs to organise a collection and transportation of sports kits to communities in South Africa.

His remarkable work is making a real difference in the lives of many children. Going forward, he plans to bring this goodwill to as many countries as possible.

We sat down with Thapelo to find out what drives his passion for supporting rural communities and we’re delighted to share his story with you.

“A

Hi Thapelo, how are you involved in community football in South Africa and the UK?

I received many requests for kits from people from Soweto, Johannesburg. So I decided to do something about it. I contacted an organisation here in the United Kingdom that collects equipment from Premier League and Championship clubs and donates it across the world, especially in Africa.

They were happy to participate in this project, so we put together our first batch. The destination was my hometown Soweto. I paid for the collection and transportation to South Africa. It was challenging, but I was happy to contribute to developing community football and bringing the historical ties between the UK and South Africa even closer at community football level.

What does football represent for you and for the community you grew up in?

Football has always been a big part of my life, just as it is for many boys who grow up in South Africa. During the apartheid era, football represented a release – an opportunity to let off some steam.

It gave us a brief moment when we could forget the constant harassment, imprisonment and general instability we faced each day. I remember playing in the streets from morning until dawn. In between, we were harassed by the security police and army. Their vehicles drove over our makeshift goalposts. We often had to run away from rubber bullets and tear gas. I continued to play football as a teenager but didn’t become a professional player.

Instead, I went to university to study Politics and International Relations. However, the bond remained strong, and I stayed involved in different areas of the football industry, both in the UK and South Africa. It means a great deal to me that I’m able to give back to community football.

“During the apartheid era, football represented a release – an opportunity to let off some steam.”

“A

What inspired you to start contributing to community football?

My grandfather Arthur ‘Papa’ Tseleng was the biggest inspiration for me. He was a chairman of the Soweto Sports Council in the 1970s. He was also deputy-headmaster at Orlando High, which was one of the most renowned high schools in the town back then.

He worked closely with England and Sir Stan Matthews (Stoke city legend) on forming a team called ‘Stans Men’. The players were students of Soweto’s high schools.

In 1975, my grandfather, as selected team manager, helped to get the government's permission for the squad to travel to Brazil. A trip like that was unheard of back then. The government would perceive a group of black boys going abroad as a conspiracy to join a liberation movement in exile.

Sir Stan Matthews Foundation contacted me to assist with the logistics during the filming of a documentary on Sir Stan in 2017. I helped to reach the living members of Stan’s Men, and people who had ties with them. I organised interviews and personally interviewed for the documentary in London.

So for me, the kit donation project represents a continuation of a legacy of my grandfather. So I named the initiative after him - the Arthur Tseleng Foundation.

“A

What challenges do you face when you are sending donations abroad?

The greatest challenge is the difference between supply and demand. We have a high demand, but cannot consistently supply the kit. Plus, we don’t have the resources to fund regular transportation. There are many expenses involved - for example, customs fees at the destination country.

We’re talking about grassroots football. These are people who have no means to buy their kit, so to expect them to fund transportation is unrealistic.

So we appreciate any assistance in generating resources to send more kits on a regular basis. Despite the challenges, we’re determined to bring light to the community by improving the lives of young ones through football.

Recently, we sent a large consignment of kit to the rural areas of Bogota, Colombia. We hope to bring more kits to this area in the future.

“A

Please share a valuable lesson you’ve learned along the way.

I’ve learnt that sometimes we take things for granted, whereas the same things mean a great deal to others.

From my experience, football means a lot more to impoverished communities than it means to people living in better off parts of the world.

In the third world, football represents a sense of belonging, family and friendship. It’s a space where you can achieve something great, create memories, share special life moments and much more. The coach is often a father figure to the players.

Many of these kids come from dysfunctional backgrounds and football might offer them the only structure in their life. You can see how genuinely excited they are when they train or play a match. When they receive their new kit, it’s so clear how much football community means to them. The game also helps to keep them away from the temptations of drugs, crime and gangsterism. Unfortunately, all these threats are very real in the areas where these kids grow up. I've also learnt that what may be a trivial game to one may be very important to someone else.

“Football represents a space where you can achieve something great, create memories and share special moments.”

“A

What plans do you have with your project going forward?

The short-term goal is to send more kit, while also getting more people to help us collect enough resources to pay for the shipment expenses. In the long term, I'd like us to expand this project beyond South Africa to other countries in the Southern African area. We’ve had requests from many countries, including Botswana or Zimbabwe.

Recently, we’ve started discussions with a community NGO based in Lesotho. We hope that it will serve as a prototype of our expansion to other African countries.

Send money from South Africa with WorldRemit!

You can now send funds from South Africa to your loved ones from the comfort of your mobile or computer screen!

Find out more about our services from South Africa here.

 It’s easy to register with us – it only takes a couple of minutes! All our first-time customers have their first transfer for free - simply use the promotion code 'FREE' before completing your transaction.

Sign up to create your first transfer!