There are those moments when making a difference in a child’s life at exactly the right time can unlock greatness. South African football stars Aaron Mokoena and Mark Williams both had such moments, and it’s exactly why they applaud and support The Player Foundation’s work in raising funds for charity through this weekend’s Gary Player Invitational at the Lost City Golf Course.
At the end of a magnificent first day of the Gary Player Invitational on Saturday in which the collection of sports stars, celebrities, professional golfers and business leaders played their part in the #GolfAndGiving drive of this event for The Player Foundation, both Mokoena and Williams reflected on their own upbringings and the critical moments that helped to shape them.
“I came from humble beginnings, and I know from personal experience that there are kids out there who can become influential people but are struggling because of their circumstances,” said Mokoena.
“I know how much raising funds for underprivileged children can mean to them, so for me to be a part of The Player Foundation’s work here means a lot. It’s in my DNA to give back, and this event gives me the opportunity to do that.”
Mokoena revealed how a man who stepped into his life at a critical time made all the difference in terms of the success he became.
“I was raised in a one-parent family and my mother could only do so much for me. So a man in our street who was successful and hated to see children suffering while he had the means to make a difference took me under his wing. He loved football and he did for me what my mother couldn’t do,” said Mokoena, who rose to become one of the stars of South African football.
For Williams, it was the quiet strength of his own mother that convinced him to avoid a life in the gangs of Cape Town and go on to become a celebrated South African footballer with a successful international career.
“Growing up in Cape Town was tough. To get to our flat you had to walk past a whole lot of other doors and these gangsters were sitting there, and you could easily get pulled into that. I lost a lot of good friends to the gangs. But my mother said it wasn’t for me. That helped me to build an idea in my mind that no matter where I came from I could be good at something. For me that was football.
“So now you want to give back and support events like this and The Player Foundation’s work. You do so because when you see that kid smile, you remember that once that was you.”
With more than $64 million already raised for charity by The Player Foundation, and a goal of reaching $100 million, the presence of Mokoena, Williams and every other star over the past 20 years of the Gary Player Invitational has certainly made a difference. And who knows the greatness it will continue to produce.