Soccer stars pushed to the limit to complete Battle of the Sports in desert

Teko Modise, Siyabonga Nomvethe and Matthew Booth finish their trek around Verneukpan

04 October 2020 - 14:39
Teko Modise, Matthew Booth, Siyabonga Nomvethe and Erik Vermeulen after completing the Battle of the Sports endurance challenge.
Teko Modise, Matthew Booth, Siyabonga Nomvethe and Erik Vermeulen after completing the Battle of the Sports endurance challenge.
Image: Supplied

Bafana Bafana stars Teko Modise, Siyabonga Nomvethe and Matthew Booth this week trekked 200km through the Northern Cape desert to the finish line of the BrightRock Battle of the Sports endurance challenge and Covid-19 fundraiser.

Team Soccer is the third team to have circumnavigated Verneukpan in the competition, after Team Rugby and Team Running.

Expedition leader Erik Vermeulen said the sportsmen's bodies had taken strain during the tough challenge.

Modise said he had never before experienced such stiffness and pain in his legs, and that it was the most difficult thing he had ever done. “I have never pushed my body this far."

He said the salt pan was particularly unforgiving on his knees. “When Siya and myself were both struggling, we really needed to rely on Matthew and Erik to pull us through.”

But the players' mental strength and team spirit helped them achieve their goal. Booth said this was not a challenge one could complete on one's own. “You need the support of your team and the drive to never let your teammates down.” 

Nomvethe said: “We knew it would be tough but we never stopped trying to do our best."

Vermeulen said the last 100km stretch was the toughest, as the landscape was featureless – and mentally this was draining. “You have nothing to measure your success by, and I am so proud of how Team Soccer performed.”

Arriving home on Friday, the team's spirit remained high. “We are so proud of what we have achieved and so grateful to our sponsors and to the organisers for giving us this opportunity to compete and do something for the good for so many vulnerable South Africans who need support," said Nomvethe. 

The last team to compete will be Team Cricket, leaving on October 9.

Helping communities

Events to Aid, the organiser of the BrightRock Battle of the Sports, will use all funds raised to help vulnerable communities hit hard hit by Covid-19.  

“This week, we were privileged to donate food parcels and protective supplies to elderly people from Alexandra at the Thembalami Care Centre," said Events to Aid CEO Clive Grinaker. "Most of the gogos [who rely on the centre for assistance] are widows looking after their grandchildren, as many of the parents of the kids in the community are either deceased or unemployed and unable to care for their children. 

"We are appealing to all sports-loving South Africans to support our athletes doing this 200km challenge and to make a donation. The entire programme will be managed exclusively by the highly respected, independent and leading Covid-19-orientated NGO Right to Care."

The NGO was founded more than 19 years ago by infectious diseases specialist Prof Ian Sanne, who remains its MD. 

The finishing times of the teams competing in the challenge will not be revealed until all the teams have competed. All the results will be announced on October 16.

How do you get involved?

  • Visit the Battle of the Sports website to support your favourite sports team doing the Verneukpan 200km challenge by donating to this worthy cause.
  • Use the hashtags #battleofthesportschallenge #lovechange when posting on the challenge's Facebook or Twitter page, or via Instagram
  • Then challenge as many of your friends as possible, or any schools, clubs and companies, to support this cause by tagging them in your social media posts.

The four teams competing in the event:

  • Cricket: Lance Klusener, Makhaya Ntini, Monde Zondeki; managed by Jonty Rhodes.
  • Rugby: Hanyani Shimange, John Smit, Schalk Brits; managed by Butch James.
  • Running: Bongmusa Mthembu, David Gatebe, Jenna Challenor; managed by Bruce Fordyce.
  • Soccer: Matthew Booth, Siyabonga Nomvethe, Teko Modise; managed by Neil Tovey.