Nike opens Soweto training centre

Posted On Thursday, 10 November 2011 02:00 Published by
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Soweto opens a Nike Football Training Centre which has a clubhouse, wellness centre, HIV/Aids testing facility and elite training facilities, four pitches, a physio room and a gymnasium.

ALONG a bustling stretch of Soweto’s Chris Hani Road, you can’t miss the rectangular wooden structure with four perfectly mowed soccer pitches. This is the Nike Football Training Centre. The state-of-theart facility is a honing ground for aspiring young South African soccer players.

Why was the centre, which has a clubhouse, wellness centre, HIV/Aids testing facility and elite training facilities — which include four pitches, a physio room and a gymnasium — built in Soweto?

Nike’s Seruscka Naidoo says: “Soweto is the hub of football in South Africa. Five of the biggest PSL teams in the country originate from Soweto. The location provides a good opportunity to build an environment for athletes to play football and be trained by elite coaches.”

At the entrance of the centre, a tall artwork welcomes visitors. Designed by Kris Hewitt, better known as Kronk, the wire mesh netting design represents a figure kicking a soccer ball. The centre itself was designed by Canadian architects Rural/Urban/Fantasy and encompasses a holistic approach to the game of soccer.

During a tour of the centre, where an illmaintained single structure once stood, photographer Lauren Mulligan and I are first shown the new change room facilities.

There are running themes in each of the eight changing rooms, representing some of the major teams locally and abroad, from Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs and Arsenal to Manchester United. Each room is elaborately designed with the team’s insignia engraved into the walls with mosaic and wooden finishes.

The changing rooms are “especially nice when the players are here getting ready for a match”, says Naidoo. “You can hear the war cries pulsing from the locker rooms.”

Nominated for a 2011 Open Buildings People’s Choice Award at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona, the centre was expected to be the second South African building to receive the accolade after the Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre at the Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo received the award in 2009.

A plaque inside the building quoting Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger reads: “Build your players like you build a house. You start with the foundations and the fundamentals.”

The centre is about more than just imparting soccer skills, it is about inspiring the players in all aspects of their lives.

“That is why we have little, intricate messages all over the grounds. We are preparing them for something that is bigger than just football,” says Naidoo.

There are shirts of international and local soccer teams hanging from the ceiling in the open area of the main building. There is a fame and memorabilia wall in one corner, and tools and training skill suggestions on the walls from world-renowned players.

Naidoo says of the sandstone and wooden structure: “The wood blends in with the environment. It is durable and can weather the winds of Soweto. It was practical to use wood. It also has an earthy, natural look.”

At the centre of the room are Apple Mac computers which the players use to visually learn drills. The rooftop area offers views overlooking Soweto.

About 1200 teams and 20000 young soccer players have come through the centre since its opening in June 2010. They have access to innovative equipment, world-class athletes, coaches and life skills.

The facility has eye-catching aesthetics, is functional and provides a safe space for players to engage in their sport. Naidoo says the centre was “inspired and designed with football and the community in mind”.

Source: The Times

Publisher: I-Net Bridge
Source: I-Net Bridge

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