IJF News, Nov 11, 2011: The scenery is bucolic: long lines of dunes that run along the False Bay shore and off the slopes of Somerset West, which are covered with vineyards. Further, some 30km in the opposite direction, one can see the Table Mountain profile, at whose foot grows the city of Cape Town. In this month of November 2011, the sun shines high in the sky and summer approaches in South Africa (Judo Solidarity Macassar South Africa).
We are in Macassar, Western Cape. Yet today, the site is best known as one of the largest townships in the vicinity of Cape Town. Approximately 150,000 people stick together in a very limited scope, which has been ravaged by more than 70% of unemployment, crime, insecurity and drugs, for the past decades. A total of six schools welcome more or less 10,000 pupils, which means that many of them are out of the school system. Despite the paradox of extreme poverty within a beautiful landscape, depression is not the keyword. Macassar is alive, vibrant and colorful. Life is not easy every day and the area is regularly battered by devastating fires that the promiscuity favors, but the people are smiling, even welcoming.
This is what the President of the International Judo Federation, Marius L. Vizer, has discovered during his recent visit to the area, during the Junior World Judo Championship. At the head of a large delegation, among whom was Jean-Luc Rougé (IJF General Secretary), Lassana Palenfo, (President of the African Judo Union), Hedi Dhouib (Member of the IJF Executive Committee ) and Temba Hlasho (President of Judo South Africa), he was able to appreciate the life difficulties in Macassar, but also the needs of the population, and what judo could bring to a community in search of mutual aid and prosperity values.
It is not every day that the leaders of a major international sports federation, come to the area. For the occasion, Kenny Rinquest, Development Director of Judo South Africa involved in the world of judo for decades, has mobilized the population with the help of a local NGO. When the official cars stop nearby the small community hall, one can already see the feverish agitation that prevails inside the building.
In his stentorian voice and with his natural authority, Kenny leads a judo clinic on the tatami that he has himself made available. This is the third session for the children, who have not yet judogi. Moreover, there is no judogi available for the moment. To lead the sixty children, he is assisted by Johannes van der Horst, who manages a nearby judo club.
With respect and enthusiasm, 8 to 15 year-old children line up, follow the rules and clearly have a real pleasure to discover judo. Already they learn to fall and get up without getting hurt. They even know how to practice certain immobilizations. The bow has no secret for them, they know that it opens and closes the session and that it symbolizes the respect. This is judo.
Obviously, the emotion is palpable, the eyes shine, both on the side of children impressed by so many people, and on the side of the officials, who are happy to see what judo can bring in a deprived area. Quietly, while activity on the mat was at its height, Vizer, who has just taken the floor to explain his real happiness to be here, sent a small team to buy drinks and snacks for children, who deserve it.
The image is sharp and funny, when the IJF President, accompanied by his guests, finally enters the room with a cart loaded to the brim with things that small judoka would have hoped to afford. The distribution begins. Aligned and disciplined, everyone take a drink and a small bag of candy. The faces light up with a thousand smiles. For a few minutes, the life difficulties are forgotten.
Before leaving, the President Vizer announces that what he saw in Macassar should be the starting point of a larger solidarity program that the IJF will carry on along with Judo South Africa. Last September, during the Judo for Peace tournament, another site had already been identified in Port Elizabeth.
Tatami and judogi will be sent to the Federation to set up a development program, which will then be replicated in other provinces, before in other countries. “It is important to be concrete and operational, we have to streamline the support, so we can have a real development policy that will help the national federations to grow,” says Mr. Vizer, before adding: “Judo is a fantastic educational tool.
As leaders of an international federation, we have the responsibility and duty to develop the sport. Thanks to the educational power of judo, we can help to increase the number of members within our federations. This will enable them, on the one hand, to implement educational policies, but also on the other hand to reinforce their sport programs. That will be beneficial at all levels. “
To illustrate this, the next day, a real bridge has been built between the world of education and the sport dimension of Judo, when the children who took part in the judo session in Macassar, came by bus to attend the third day of the Junior World Judo Championship that was organized in central Cape Town.
It was impressive to discover the faces of all those kids dreaming of something they could hardly imagine the day before and discovering a competition that one day, perhaps, themselves will participate in. Some will become champions, other educators or referees, but all the values that they will have learned will be useful and necessary in their daily lives.
As a last glance, a few days after the passage of the IJF delegation in Macassar, the judo training sessions have taken over and there are more than 100 children who came to try judo. The success is in operation.