JOHANNESBURG (AFP) At the lushly landscaped, gated campus of Sunward Park High School, 20 young footballers from far scrappier township schools train while pursuing their studies, under a novel scheme that aims to spread across Africa. In white shorts, grey jerseys and cleats, the boys pass the ball to the commands of their coaches, recruited by a group of retired African footballers known as Diambars. The name means fighters in Wolof, the main language of Senegal, where the programme began with the inspiration of former greats like Patrick Vieira and Bernard Lama, who wanted to provide solid educations to promising players from poor neighbourhoods. This is the best way to become a soccer player, and I can get an education at the same time, said Antonio Catania, a 13-year-old striker who plays under the nickname Bandares, after the Spanish actor. Sport is a good angle of attack to promote education, said Diambars director Jimmy Adjovi-Boco, who has tagged onto next months World Cup to launch their first project in South Africa. He hopes South Africa, the continents economic powerhouse, will become a launch pad to expand the scheme across Africa. The World Cup is an interesting way for us to raise our profile, the former player from Benin said. Education remains on two tracks in South Africa, 16 years after the end of white-minority apartheid rule. Most of the good schools are in neighborhoods once restricted to whites, where rugby is often more popular than football. Sport facilities at schools in the former black townships, where football is dominant, remain underfunded. Formerly white public schools like Sunward Park often supplement their government funding by charging fees to parents to keep up their facilities. Most scouting in South Africa happens through the teams in South Africas Premier Soccer League, which runs development squads but provides little support to up-and-coming players. Few schemes combine sports training and schooling. The students in Diambars enroll for five years. Most are recruited from the formerly black townships and rural areas. Once at the school, they receive remedial courses to bring them up to speed. Theyre keen to learn. They want to be educated, said Samuel Mphuti, a professor of Sotho, one of the countrys 11 official languages. He was recruited to teach here to help students who have never studied in English. The school of 1,200 students has transformed its gym into a dormitory to lodge the players, and has opened all its sports facilities to them. We want to become a school of excellence for football, said principal Ansie Peens. She hopes the Diambars players will help raise level of sport for their classmates. Meanwhile, the young footballers dream of making it rich by playing overseas. Here in South Africa, theres no money, said Ronald Wee, a 13-year-old defending midfielder. South African football is not competitive, added 13-year-old attacking midfielder Sizwe Dubazana.