Every year the world’s sporting elite gather for what has been dubbed the Oscars of sport – the Laureus sports awards.
But away from the glitz and glamour of that occasion, advice the Laureus Foundation has a more far-reaching effect on society through their sport for good campaign.
South Africa is well represented within the organisation with both former Springbok rugby captain Morné du Plessis and golf legend Gary Player as members of the Laureus Academy and the likes of Lucas Radebe, hospital Jacques Kallis, nurse Baby Jake Matlala and Natalie du Toit all acting as Laureus ambassadors in the country.
Du Plessis explained that the academy of 42 members (all former elite sportsmen and women) work to allocate funds for social projects worldwide which use sport as a tool for change.
“We are currently supporting 40 projects around the world, six of those in South Africa,” said Du Plessis, also adding his reasons for joining to foundation.
“I decided to be a part of it mainly because of its international reach and it was an opportunity for me to put something back into sport and society in some way. It’s also non-political and non-nationalistic. There are no boundaries – I’ve been involved in China, East Berlin, Kenya, and the slums of India and seen that the problems are universal, kids are universal.
“I am greatly encouraged by sport being able to do something good, that it’s not just entertainment or a way of making lots of money but there’s a greater purpose to it as well.”
Du Plessis believes that sportspeople who have enjoyed years of being in the limelight have a responsibility to make a contribution back to society, but it should not be out of sense of obligation.
“They rely on public acclaim and society gives it to them for free, in fact they pay for it, so there is a certain kind of debt that is owed,” he said.
“And there should be a commitment to making change but it shouldn’t be out of a feeling of obligation because if people feel obliged to do something there is a certain reticence. They need to be fully committed.”
Du Plessis explained that his involvement in social projects around the world has been both a humbling and grounding experience.
“For me it is an important reality check. I get to see the challenges that are faced by society. In our normal, privileged environment we don’t often get to experience life where there aren’t any parents or facilities, or like on of our projects near Cape Town where there is a huge problem with drug abuse and child abuse,” he said.
“I think everyone in a privileged position should be exposed to this type of thing and see all those unheralded people who are working on these projects to uplift society. For me, that’s the greatest aspect of being involved with Laureus – to see how many people do actually get involved. And what we do pales into insignificance compared with the real work that’s getting done by these heroes and heroines.” – Heartlines Features.
By Karien Jonckheere