Golf is traditionally known as a rich man’s sport, while football, on the other hand, is the kind of sport one expects to find more readily in poor rural communities and townships of South Africa. Contrasting as the two worlds may seem, Norman Mphake, believes those are the two worlds that can come together.
Mphake is Executive Director of FootGolf South Africa and believes foot golf, a hybrid sport that combines football and golf, and is played on a golf course without golf clubs, but feet, is the first democratic sport in South Africa as it is all encompasses in its nature.
“It’s a hybrid sporting code. It’s combination of football and golf and it’s played on a golf course, using the rules of golf and the fundamental is that we use soccer balls and our holes are bigger. We follow the rules of golf, the etiquette … we have par 3, par 4, par 5, bunkers, we’ve got penalty strokes … the same thing. All the things that you understand about golf would apply to footgolf and the difference is that we don’t use clubs, we use our feet and we kick the ball on that course,” explains Mphake.
He says the sport provides and opportunity for South Africans to build a new sporting code without any historical predicaments and without access and transformation challenges.
“We call footgolf the first democratic sport in South Africa in that it combines the world of golf and the world of football and it is an opportunity for us to build a new sporting code that has no baggage, no historical predicaments or challenges. We have an opportunity to build sporting quotes that we believe represents what South Africa should be. It’s an opportunity for us to start afresh at a zero base. So, we have no excuses; when it comes issues of access we shouldn’t have excuses; when it comes to issues of transformation we shouldn’t have issues.”
Forty countries will take part in the fourth FootGolf World Cup in the US in May and South Africa will become the first African country to take part in the tournament.
The final squad has already been selected and is currently preparing for the tournament.
However, getting sponsors, as Mphake explains, has been a difficult task since it’s a new sport in the country.
“It’s been the hardest journey to go on because everyone saying we already have our partners, what is our return on investment. It’s a new sport and everyone is waiting for someone to take a bite,” he says.
The growth for the sport in the country will also depend on its accessibility to all potential participants and Mphake says they have already started working on ensuring it is accessible.
“We’ve already started venturing into the school sport conversation, but as I said, central to this thing is if we don’t have facilities closer to where people live, then you are making the sport inaccessible and then you are making the sport a pipe dream.”