While for most young men from rural areas the game of soccer epitomises the ultimate opportunity to achieve some form of fame and fortune, 18-year old Peter Bopape has embraced blackball pool as the sporting code in which he seeks to excel.
That he has a great future in the sport is evident from his achievement at the recent South African Summer Games for the Intellectually Impaired held in Polokwane where he was named Best Male Blackball Player of the games.
This in turn secured him a place in the national team that will represent South Africa at the World Blackball Championships for Intellectually Impaired athletes set to take place in Melbourne, Australia in October 2018.
Bopape, a student in welding at Bana Ba Thari Special School in Solomondale said he never thought that he would ever get a chance to represent his country in the lesser known sporting code of blackball pool. “Growing up, soccer was and still is the dominant sporting code in my area, but not all of us can play and excel in soccer. My brother also loved playing blackball pool and on a good day invited me to come and play with him at a local general dealer and I never looked back.
I fell in love with the game, I played after school and I was lucky because it was also included in the school’s sport programme which helped me a lot because I was able to go further in the sport,” Bopape explained.
He hopes that his recent achievement will inspire other intellectually impaired individuals in his community and other areas of the province. “Intellectually impaired persons are faced with so many challenges. They are not given equal opportunities like able-bodied people. So I want them to indentify things they like be it in sport or arts because they can excel in those things. I am testimony of that. Blackball pool is called a beer sport because is mainly played in shebeens. That was quite a challenge because people will always remind me that I play a shebeen sport, but it has not deterred me, instead it made me even stronger,” he said.
There is an entrepreneurial side to Bopape as well. Once he completes school he intends to open his own welding company in his home area of Ga-Mamabolo where he would endeavour to employ as many community members as possible and also grow his favourite sport.
“Our teacher always tells us that welding remains the most important metal joining technology available to the manufacturing industry today and we must take advantage of the opportunities it offers.”
“I am in my fourth year now and I am already planning for the future. I don’t want to work for anyone. I want to create employment for people. I have seen lot of people suffering in my area most of them are unemployed, especially the youth. So I want to help and reduce the scourge of poverty and joblessness and ensure that everyone has food on their tables,” a determined Bopape said.
As for blackball, he said he would love to see the sport integrated in all schools, including the mainstream. “It is an exciting sport with a rich history and I want to see everyone excelling in it.”
Story and photo: Herbert Rachuene