Emihle. Beautiful. Pragtig. Nhle.
Whatever language you speak, these words are not often the first that come to mind when one thinks of a township, an urban soccer field, or a heartbreaking death.
Yet nestled in Khayelitsha just behind the Ikhusi Primary School, a group of driven people have taken those three things and transformed them into just that: Beauty.
Celebrating its 5th anniversary on Sunday, the Chris Campbell Memorial Field lies in stark contrast to the tin shacks and glass-strewn streets surrounding it. With its bright green Astroturf, beaming lights and towering fences, one can’t help but wonder just how it got there and why?
Plans for the field began five years ago in memory of a Chris Campbell, an avid soccer player who unexpectedly passed away in 2007 at the age of 21. Campbell’s soccer team at Franklin and Marshall in Pennsylvania, United States, had been in the process of planning a trip to hold a week long soccer clinic in Khayelitsha at the time of his death.
As donations for the trip increased following his death, so did the team’s goals. In response, Campbell’s parents created the CTC Foundation and with extensive fundraising, a lot of heart, and a whole lot of patience they began laying ground for what is now the Chris Campbell Memorial Field.
To honour Sunday’s five-year milestone, the Foundation held a tournament for their younger participants. The tournament was comprised of 10 teams broken into age brackets between four and ten, and was coached by both volunteers and employees of the centre.
By mid-morning the field was full of young boys trying to show off their soccer prowess as the girls showed of their dancing.
The day also marked the unofficial unveiling of the club house’s mural to the Campbell family, who make regular visits from America to check on the site. Painted by local artist, Ricky Lee Gordon (aka Freddy Sam), the piece combines drawings created by the children with striking depictions of some of their faces.
With continued community support, maintained connection to Franklin and Marshall, and local partnerships, most notably with Amandla Edufootball, the field is about something much more than sport. Offering life-skills classes, teams and leagues for any age group, and even job opportunities to those in the community, the field provides fun, safety, some healthy competition, and, above all, hope.
As Campbell Senior remarked as he gazed out onto the field, smiling,“It’s good for the soul.” © The Big Issue SA