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Football coaches reach their goal

South African pupils net a few qualifications from the Scottish Football Association. Henry Hepburn reports

South African pupils net a few qualifications from the Scottish Football Association. Henry Hepburn reports

Aspiring young football coaches from a South African township took home Scottish Football Association qualifications after linking up with a school in Inverness.

Nine pupils and three staff from JE Malepe Secondary in Tsakane, outside Johannesburg, visited Charleston Academy in March.

The trip followed a visit by pupils and staff from Charleston to Johannesburg last year under the British Council's Dreams and Teams programme, which builds youth leadership skills through sport.

British Council Scotland provided Charleston with grants of pound;1,500 for each of two years. The first instalment was donated to JE Malepe to help pupils connect with each other by social networking and telephone.

The South African boys attended a training day at the Highland Football Academy in Dingwall, and left with a basic coaching qualification.

The girls went to Inverness's Eden Court Theatre, where they learned Scottish country dancing, disco and hip hop routines.

Charleston teachers Alex Mezals and John Mackay, and Active Schools coordinator Jeni Herbert, oversaw fundraising for the South Africans' visit to Scotland.

Mr Mezals, who teaches maths, said: "The South African pupils don't really do PE as part of their normal school day, so gaining the SFA qualifications will allow them to help out at after-school clubs and share their passion for football.

"There were a lot of tears when we were out there, because our pupils just hadn't realised the hardship a lot of the South African kids live in," he added.

"There was one girl who had a shaved head, and when our pupils asked her why, she told them it was because she was in mourning for her mother who had just passed away. But despite that kind of hardship, the kids out there are incredibly positive about education, because they see it as a way out of the township."

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