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The Orlando Pirates practice in Johannesburg. The team sends scouts all over the country to find the most promising talent, then brings them here to live, train and get an education. (David Michael Lamb/CBC)

 

It happened en route to the training ground of the Orlando Pirates, one of the premier football clubs in South Africa.

While on the highway, our car started to overheat. We pulled over, and our driver said there was no way we could keep going. We would have to wait for help, which could easily take an hour, meaning we’d miss the practice.

We — CBC's World Report crew including host Peter Armstrong, field producer Sean Brocklehurst and myself, the show's senior producer — were headed there to watch a practice of the youth development team. We were looking to interview some of the players and their coaches for our show that starts broadcasting from South Africa later in the week.

Our vehicle had only stopped for a few minutes when a police car pulled up. We were ready for a hassle. How wrong we were!

Almost immediately, the police officer was telling us to get in his car. He was offering to drive us to the Orlando Pirates' practice. This, despite the fact he was a supporter of the rival club, the Kaizer Chiefs.

In the end, our crew made it there in time to watch the practice and talk to some of the talented young kids. In some cases, they were 12 and 13 years old, and their skills were impressive. Some will undoubtedly end up playing for pro South African teams. A few of the best will likely end up playing in Europe. And some may even go to the World Cup.

It's amazing to think we almost never made it to see the Pirates because of a broken down car. And the reason we got there was because of a police officer — the friendliest police officer we've ever encountered anywhere.

And this, on the streets of one of the most crime-ridden and dangerous cities on earth. It was here, stranded and vulnerable in the middle of a highway, that we found not violence, but the most unexpected moment of friendliness and selflessness.