2019 Renault GAA World Games - Club Focus: South Africa Gaels
By Eoghan Tuohey
We here at Renault GAA World Games HQ take a closer look at the SA Gaels - From early beginnings, to 2016 World Games Plate Finalists, to the energy, passion and colour they will bring to the 2019 Games in Waterford!
It still may come as a surprise to a lot of GAA people here in Ireland, that not only is there a thriving Gaelic Games community in Johannesburg, South Africa, but that it is now in existence for over 9 years. On top of this, most of its members are local people, largely hailing from townships on the outskirts of the sprawling city. Often, we here in Ireland simply aren’t aware of the impact our native games are having abroad, the extent to which they are played and the significant roles they occupy in communities around the world. It’s worthwhile learning about their growth, and how they have successfully brought communities together, provided a sporting and social outlet to local people, and helped to increase exposure to Irish culture, often in some of the most unlikely of geographical locations.
Founded by Paul Carpenter and Hannah Oguz, two players with a love for Gaelic Football, the club was initially formed with the goals of establishing the game in the country, nurturing and facilitating its growth, as well as to introduce people in the region to a previously unseen aspect of Irish culture, and to share it with as many locals as possible.
There’s in and around 50 players involved in both the senior men’s and women’s teams, and while there is involvement from expats, it is mostly local people who make up the numbers. The club’s primary focus is on developing their native-born sides, with development officers working with some 100 primary-school children every week to foster in them a love for Gaelic Games and an outlet for socialising and playing in a safe and secure environment.
From this initial founding, came the South African Gaelic Sports Foundation, whose chief aim is to create opportunities and to make Gaelic Games accessible to kids living in underprivileged townships in Joburg. From humble beginnings, three development centres have now been established in Tembisa, Alexandra and Midrand, with 3 full-time development officers employed. Plans are afoot and already underway to continue this growth, particularly in the Kwa-Zulu and Eastern Cape regions of South Africa.
Long term, the South African Gaelic Sports Foundation targets the GAA World Games in particular, where they hope to build on the success that they had in UCD in 2016, where their men’s team were runners-up in the plate final. The Games are the focal point of their season, and the squads lit up the 2016 tournament with their energy, enthusiasm, passion and positivity, and it is expected that their contribution to the 2019 event in the WIT Arena in Carriganore, Waterford will be no different. The club sees the World Games as an ideal opportunity to connect with fellow clubs, form friendships and build relationships that will hopefully lead to the creation of an All-African GAA Tournament in the future, as well as advance relationships with their GAA friends in neighbouring regions, such as the Middle-East, where they competed at the Dubai Gaelic Games Tournament in 2014.
The SA Gaels are extremely excited ahead of this years’ tournament, having gone on two more successful tours in the meantime, to Oman in 2017 and the Asian Gaelic Games in 2018. Both excursions have whetted their appetites to represent their country on the world stage once again, and we can't wait to welcome them to Waterford this July!