By Bob Norris | Chairperson: BKCOB Sports Committee
A good few years back Gideon Sam, then at the helm of NOCSA, was invited by the BKCOB Sports Tourism sub-committee to offer a presentation to all local sporting codes on the value of then existing sports facilities. He did a great job and opened the eyes to all as to just how wealthy the region was with such facilities.
The traditional stadia were showcased but so too were many that folk may have been aware of but not necessarily ofay with. The then Basil Kenyon Stadium, previously the Border Rugby Union grounds and since renamed the Buffalo City Stadium was one of the better known and referred to. It had over the years played host to countless Currie Cup and Sports Pienaar matches, the very first Craven Week in 1964, several rugby tour and test matches along with games during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
Big school derby days brought in much needed revenue and early professional soccer with local sides East London City, United and Celtic all played games at both this and the Jan Smuts facility. The latter was to become the home of the first and indeed second “tartan track” facility for athletics.
These adjacent stadia with so much potential have in latter years been allowed to become the domain of vandals, looters and many other forms of illegal activity, destroying what the citizenry of the city had invested in over many decades. This all happened under the watch of the current Buffalo City Metro hierarchy sitting back and doing little to stop the theft and destruction.
Buffalo Park, the home of Border Cricket has fared better, though could well do with an upgrade, while the Border Hockey Astroturf is looking much better through private funding. An adjacent pitch is required for international fixtures, however.
The hockey facility in Buffalo Flats has also been vandalised, while the once proud Ruth Belonsky Swimming Pool has suffered a similar fate as the pool once housed in Mdantsane.
Mdantsane is home to the Sisa Dukashe Stadium the pride and joy of “township” rugby, but used over the years also for soccer, athletics in all its forms and many other community activities. While it has been upgraded, it has been awarded to Chippa United and they are paid play some of their fixtures there, while all other sports and the youth of Mdantsane are precluded from using the only stadium in the area.
The same organisation has now been given both the Buffalo City Stadium and the Jan Smuts Athletic facility for a paltry rental of R3000 per month AND on a 10-year lease. Three stadia to a business entity engulfed in soccer at the foot of the PSL table.
The Phillip Khats Softball Stadium, built to host the softball world cup is another to have suffered degradation as have Farrer’s Fields up Qonce way, the old showgrounds in Union Avenue, and many others, both in city and rural areas.
Sports Clubs have been unable to upgrade facilities due to short term leases and many a proud club is no more.
The Grand Prix Track seems to have finally made a breakthrough with BCMM and the Selborne Park Tennis Stadium is still intact.
Netball is a big sport in the area as of course is boxing, but both are without a permanent home in a city considered the home of the latter.
Not until there is an administration with foresight, passion empathy for the youth and with a vision to use sport to enhance the city will Border return to a winning culture in all aspects of the community.
It is terribly sad, nay it is more likely criminal.