CHIPINGE – A record crowd of 6 000-plus people attended this year’s finals of the Joyce and Solomon Goko Challenge (JSGC) — now in its eighth year of running and held at Nyunga Primary School in Chipinge on Saturday.
The popular football, netball and traditional dance tournament was launched in honour of the late Solomon Goko — a revered educationist, church and traditional leader — together with his wife Joyce, who now lives in Harare.
The 77-year-old Mbuya Goko was herself a dedicated teacher for nearly five decades and remains a popular figure in the local community.
Presumably one of the biggest sports tourneys in the country, the JSGC challenge has 14 primary and six secondary schools in the region — who compete in a league format for a year and with the winners clashing in a final at the end of school’s sporting season.
Tsitsi Mashava, the tournament’s president, said more schools — eager and desperate to join the prestigious tournament — would be accommodated were it not for logistical challenges.
“This has exceeded our wildest dreams in terms of the tournament’s size and contribution to the life of communities in this area, which is most befitting of the status of the two people in whose names all this is being done,” she said, adding the event had also grown from strength to strength since its humble beginnings as a clash of four primaries.
“The names of Mr and Mrs Goko are revered in these communities because of the work they did during their active life here. The idea, therefore, is to try and inspire both the young and old to do good humbly, be of service to others and dream high, just as Mr and Mrs Goko did,” she said.
Mashava also added another reason why the tournament had grown so fast and popular — in a relatively short period — was its deliberate community thrust.
“All the hard planning and work, and there is plenty of this, is done and carried out with the full participation of local authorities and parents. All the catering, ushering and refereeing on the massive finals day, for example, is managed by volunteers, who include teachers and members of the community. It is very touching and special,” she said.
Maxwell Chaya, the JSGC chairperson, said that the event had become much bigger than just a schools’ tournament.
“In addition to school children really looking forward to the annual tournament, parents and other community members also participated enthusiastically in their own traditional dances competition — alongside the scholars. And the competition here is fierce!
“To that extent, one is now never too sure who in fact is looking forward more to this tournament between the children and the parents, but it is all great fun — definitely the highlight of the social calendar in this area,” he said.
“One has to come here to fully appreciate what it means for the entire community. Some people are walking more than 25km to be part of the tournament and the buzz during the finals. It is amazing,” Chaya added.
Speaking at the finals, Chipinge District education officer and guest of honour Chiedza Beta, commended the challenge’s sponsors for such a vital intervention and contribution to the communities, and urged other people to emulate them.
Annah Mnkandla, the Goko family spokesperson, said plans were afoot for the 2015 tournament to be a “really big and even more memorable event” as it would nearly be the tournament’s 10th anniversary, and mark Sekuru Goko’s passing away.
“In the same vein, we hope that by then the other work associated with the Joyce and Solomon Goko Trust will really and truly have begun to kick in. Our ambition is to step up our contribution to local communities by way of assisting in other developmental initiatives in areas such as health, nutrition and school infrastructure,” she said.
Meanwhile, Maunganidze Primary School swept the boards in both the football and netball finals after beating defending champions Mutema, and Manesa primary schools. In the traditional dance category, Bangwe Primary School came out tops.
In the senior soccer clash, Goko Secondary School took the honours, while Musani won the netball game.