SAFC take centre stage at fans park initiative

by Sunderland AFC

Black Cats star in new Premier League programme.

Sunderland AFC led the way in first ever Barclays Premier League Live event in South Africa.

SAFC played its part in the inaugural BPL Live event last weekend, which saw over 30,000 people visiting the new fan park initiative, held at Zoo Lakes Park in Johannesburg.

The Black Cats were one of four Barclays Premier League teams being showcased at the event, alongside Chelsea, Cardiff City and Tottenham. The free-to-enter park offered South African fans the chance to engage with the clubs in some exciting and interactive challenges.

One of the most popular challenges came from the Black Cats, with participants taking part in the unique activity of controlling a ball within the club’s booth whilst wearing a pair of ‘beer goggles’ – glasses designed to make normal coordination more difficult.

The activity was hugely popular, so much so that that Premier League legends Robbie Fowler, Marcel Desailly and former Sunderland player Benjani all joined in with the challenge, to differing degrees of success.

The Skills Zone generated massive queues, as visitors tested their shooting accuracy, power and close control. The Club Zone, where visitors were able to learn more about SAFC, saw fans pick their all-time XI. Through green-screen technology they were also able to picture themselves lifting the Barclays Premier League Trophy.

SAFC delegates, who have been in South Africa this month delivering coaching sessions to partners and community partnerships, alongside leading the Premier Skills initiative in the country, also led on a number of sessions at The Pitch Zone at the event.

Graham Robinson, head of international football development at SAFC, conducted a number of skills sessions for young fans at the event.

Graham said: “It has been a pleasure to assist on what has been a fantastic weekend and past couple of weeks. The coaches we handpicked from the Premier Skills initiative also did us very proud and delivered some fantastic sessions at the Barclays Premier League Live event.”

The Black Cats booth proved to be extremely popular with fans wanting to test their skills in the various challenges and SAFC’s commercial director, Gary Hutchinson also got involved in supporting the event.

Gary said: “The event has been a huge success and we are honoured to have played a part in the fan park initiative. The club has a huge following in South Africa and it was great to meet and interact with so many of our African supporters.

“African fans are being welcomed into the Sunderland family in increasing numbers and with the club’s many partnerships on the continent, those supporters can see the impact we are having on many people’s lives.”

Gary continued: “Sunderland has, and always will be, a club with a firm focus on the importance of community and we hope that the work we have been doing shows our commitment to give back to the communities in which we operate.”