By Lungelo Ndhlovu
A solar-powered soccer pitch in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo’s has changed the nightscape of Luveve high density suburb by enabling children to play football at night thereby developing raw talent for the future.
The soccer field features solar PV panels and powerful LED lights around the perimeter and corners of the field. The two technologies together generate electricity which is stored on site and then used to power the field’s floodlights for the night’s games.
Mbongeni Ndebele, the coordinator for Football for Hope Centre, said the solar-powered soccer field is a safe space that brings young people from various communities in Bulawayo to create awareness about HIV as well as teaching them life skills.
“Soccer is the world’s most played sport and the world’s most watched sport. By using a soccer based structure and curriculum, our coaches build trust, engage youth in activity based learning and create safe spaces where young people feel comfortable asking questions and sharing opinions,” said Ndebele.
“We use the soccer pitch during the day and teams can even play football at night from 6pm until 9pm. The solar powered soccer pitch is so ideal for big teams such as Bantu Rovers and Highlanders football teams who use it when practicing for tournaments until late,” said Ndebele.
The solar powered soccer pitch is currently used by Skills Street League, a girls soccer tournament involving local school girls as young as eight years of age.
“We normally host five-aside tournaments and the teams are drawn from various Bulawayo schools. We teach these kids professional football from how to hold and pass a ball until they master the skills,” said Ndebele.
According to Bhekimpilo Moyo, Grass Root Soccer Country director, there are only three solar powered soccer fields in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“This is a new system in Africa. There are two in South Africa, one in Alexandra and another in Khayelitsha and this one in Zimbabwe. We acquired a 20-year contract from FIFA to develop soccer and raw talent in communities.
“Recently we have been accredited by the National Aids Council of Zimbabwe to test HIV for those young people who come for sporting activities here,” said Moyo.
He said using solar powered soccer pitches is very sustainable and very cheap compared to using national grid electricity which comes with the expense of monthly bills.