Rural South Africa gets taste of World Cup

The South African government's youth development agency brought a portable party to Lichtenburg this week.

Outsiders are rare as rain in this dusty corner of northern South Africa. So when cars carrying government workers, flags and a sound system arrived at the community sports field, curious villagers streamed in.  

Lichtenburg's Matikiring community in South Africa's Northwest Province has no running water, most houses are tin shacks — the word Matikiring means "tin shack place"— and the sports ground consists of two goalposts with torn nets at either end of a field of sand.  

The government's youth development agency brought a portable party to Lichtenburg this week as part of a campaign to ensure South Africans in remote parts of the country get a long-awaited taste of the World Cup. Villager Maria Bogatsu says maybe now the eyes of government officials will be opened to poverty in rural South Africa.  

"We hope that after the World Cup, maybe there will be improvements in our small village," she said.  

Steven Ngubeni, chief executive officer of the National Youth Development Agency, said more efforts need to be made to reach out to all parts of South Africa.  

"Anecdotal evidence points to the fact that young people from rural areas feel completely left out of the excitement of events associated with the World Cup preparations," Ngubeni said.  

This was confirmed by Liza Matladi of the aid group CARE, which works throughout rural South Africa.

No electricity in some areas

She said some people in rural areas don't even have electricity, and will only be able to watch the World Cup on TV if the government sets up screens in public areas. Some cash-strapped local governments say they can't afford to set up viewing areas.  

Sammy Molofo, an ANC Youth League member from another rural part of South Africa, said, "I don't know anything about the World Cup. I don't even know the players."  

In Lichtenburg on Tuesday, villagers were given a chance to win a South African football jersey or a ticket to a World Cup game with hotel accommodation and transportation. A mini football tournament was staged, some of the players were barefoot, all were determined.  

Organizers gave a microphone to a man who volunteered to provide a play-by-play call. He climbed a tree for a better view and delivered commentary from his perch.  

The winning team was promised jerseys and other football paraphernalia.  

Katlego Bogatsu, 19, enjoyed the day.  

"It's not often anything happens here, it only happens in the towns," she said. "It's the first time we see anything regarding the World Cup."