Johannesburg - Despite her excellent showing at a Pretoria schools tournament last week, South African high schools Under-15 tennis player Amukelani Mokone may not realise her dream of representing the country in the UK in June.
Her troubles started on Wednesday when she received a letter from Tennis South Africa (TSA) informing her that she had been selected for the national team.
However, the letter also stated she needed to come up with a “nonrefundable” amount of R20 000 within seven days.
The team is set to take on some of the best teams in the UK in June, including the Sutton Tennis Academy and the Millfield Academy in Somerset.
The letter read: “The team will also attend two days at Wimbledon, where we have secured a show-court ticket. A variety of cultural and educational sites will also be visited during this time.”
Mokone’s grandmother, Tsakane Hlungwane, who stays with her in White City, Soweto, told City Press that she does not know where she will get the money.
“I told her coach Oupa [Nthuping] that I will not be able to pay the deposit of R20 000 because I am unemployed,” she said.
The full cost of the trip is “approximately R39 990, excluding airport taxes, which are calculated on the day the tickets are issued [currently quoted at about R6 725],” stated the letter.
The selected players are expected to confirm if they will attend the tour by 12:00 on Monday. They have to pay the nonrefundable deposit of R20 000 before Tuesday and the balance not later than May 8.
“At first I was surprised that I had been selected, but now I am sad because I may not go because I do not have the money. But my coach promised he will try his level best to get help,” said Mokone.
Nthuping said: “I am trying my best to raise funds for her, but I am not sure if we will be able to raise the money that is required.”
He said Modise Motloba’s company, Phuthong Trust, had promised to help.
“Modise has promised to help, as has Owen Nkomo of Inkunzi Investments, but we do not have anything formal from Nkomo,” said Nthuping.
Zenzile Hlongwane, who has been helping Mokone with training shoes, money and other necessities, said she felt obliged to do so as the player came from a disadvantaged background.
Not just one kid
“I heard her on Kaya FM in 2015 talking about kids who do not have tennis shoes and I was touched by the story,” Hlongwane said.
TSA chief executive officer Richard Glover referred City Press to the chair of TSA high schools, David Jaquire, who said when parents do not have enough money, the child’s school or the municipality should help them.
“TSA does not have funds to help kids because it is not just one kid going, there will be at least 20 going to the UK, unlike rugby and cricket, which fund some of their youth tournaments,” said Jaquire.
The newly appointed minister of sport and recreation, Thulas Nxesi, said he could not comment because he still needed to meet with all sports federations.
Mokone joined the Arthur Ashe tennis centre in Jabavu, Soweto, when she was 10. Her interest in tennis began when she went to the library with her grandmother, where she saw the beautiful tennis courts named after the late US tennis icon.