Johannesburg - Soweto’s Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre has churned out a number of talented players who have won top honours and even earned bursaries, but it still has one Achilles heel – funding.
A fortnight ago, City Press reported on the fate of rising star Amukelani Mokone, who was struggling to raise funds for a trip to the UK that would include a visit to Wimbledon.
As with many stories with a good ending, Mokone has managed to secure funding, thanks to a few businesses and individuals who answered her cries for help.
Coach Oupa Nthuping tells us that Mokone is not the only shining star at this academy that is an oasis of excellence in the bustling and sometimes dusty township of Soweto.
Masodi Senona (11), who won when representing Gauteng at the SA National Championships in Durban in 2016, is a proud recipient of a bursary of R100 000-a-year for the next five years.
Another player who has made the academy proud is Jansmith Moeng (16). He earned his bursary in 2014, but only started receiving the funds this year, apparently because the bursary took some time to process.
The bursary covers school fees, clothing, sport science support and transport to tennis events.
Lack of sponsorship
Abner Dick (14), who joined the Jabavu-based academy three years ago after winning her bursary, said her dream was to get a scholarship to study abroad.
“I would like to go abroad just like my sister Arial . She went to England through a tennis scholarship,” Dick said.
Dick was one of 10 players who represented the South African Under-13 team in New Orleans in the US in 2014.
Even with this considerable success, Nthuping, who leads the academy, which is named after the first black world number one tennis player Arthur Ashe, is unhappy. His complaint relates to a lack of sponsorship.
“We appeal to sponsors to come and rescue us so that our players can compete at international competitions,” he pleaded.
Nthuping said sponsorship would help players participate in more competitions, which would help them gain points that would lead to their getting higher rankings.
High ranking players get invited to national and international tournaments.
“Sometimes, we can’t host international tournaments because our players will not even qualify to participate.”
An elated Mokone, who leaves for the UK in June, said all she wants is to see herself representing South Africa.
Those behind the fundraising claim that about R70 000 was raised within a week.
Professional services firm PwC donated R46 715 to cover the full cost of Mokone’s trip. The money was to be deposited straight into Tennis SA’s account last week.
Lepule Consultants donated R15 000 to cover other costs such as meals, the UK visa, tennis equipment, clothing and toiletries.
Kaya FM was first to report on Mokone’s plight, and the radio station’s listeners contributed almost R8 000, which would be put into a savings account that the station would open on her behalf.
Nthuping speaks highly of Mokone, saying: “Amukelani is a hard worker. When you ask her to do something, she goes an extra mile.”
Nthuping said Mokone’s focus, commitment and attitude would take her far.
While the coach was happy about her UK trip, he felt that Mokone was treated unfairly in 2015, when she was supposed to receive a bursary but did not, after which “flimsy excuses” were provided.
He said: “They said she did not receive it because she was fat. How can a tiny little girl like her be said to be fat? They said she was older than 15, but she is still not 15.”
Mokone will only turn 15 on December 28.