From South African Chamber: A Summer of Soccer

David Beasley

Toni Castel, president of the South African-American Chamber of Commerce, and Irene Bailey, a chamber board member, discuss Atlanta International Soccer Fest 2010.

As South Africa prepares to host the World Cup soccer tournament this summer, and Atlanta vies for the games in 2018 or 2022, the South African-American Chamber of Commerce is tapping into metro Atlanta’s growing enthusiasm for the sport with a tournament and other events.

Organizers hope Atlanta soccer fans will benefit, as will SOS Children’s Villages USA, a non-profit group that provides homes for orphans and neglected children worldwide.

The chamber, formed a year ago, is organizing the Atlanta International Soccer Fest 2010. It will start June 10 with a cocktail party at the World Trade Center Atlanta, said chamber president and one of its founders, Toni Castel, an Atlanta attorney.

On June 12-13, there will be a soccer tournament which will include 16 teams from bi-national chambers in Atlanta, local consulates and private companies. Teams will pay entry fees, with the proceeds going to SOS Villages.

The Fest will end July 11 with a large party to watch the final World Cup final match on big screens.

“This gives everyone an opportunity to come together around the celebration of soccer, an international sport, to mix and meet and get involved,” said Ms. Castel.

SOS has eight villages in South Africa, said Irene Bailey, head of the SOS volunteer committee inAtlanta who is also  a board member of the South African-American Chamber. A native of Senegal, Ms. Bailey lived as a child in an SOS village in Germany.

“I am a direct product of what the organization does, which is provide long-term care for either orphans or neglected children,” she said. “The unique thing about SOS is that children are kept in one household in one family home together with their siblings, their biological siblings.”

SOS also funds vocational and college education for children in the villages, she said.

“SOS provided me with an outstanding education, including support in earning my university degrees in the U.S. and Germany,” said Ms. Bailey, a program coordinator at the Georgia Council for International Visitors. “But most importantly I was given a loving SOS mother, family, and home.”

While the South African-American chamber hopes to raise a substantial amount of money for SOS, it also wants to build on soccer’s growing momentum in Atlanta.

Atlanta is one of 18 cities that could host the World Cup if the United States is awarded the soccer tournament in 2018 or 2022, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced in January.

“Soccer  has a huge following,” said Derrick Jackson, executive director of the chamber and chairman of the Fest. “We have been inundated with enthusiasm and excitement.”

For more information on the chamber, click here. For more on SOS Children’s Villages, click here.

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