Long before the 2010 World Cup came to South Africa, Cape Town Stadium hosted a little known match that among locals has taken on epic proportions. It was there, with four months to go until screaming fans and screeching vuvuzelas descended on the arena, that the local Ikapa Sporting Football Club took on a team of Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis.

Judging from a video now available online for all to see, it appears the rabbis won.

Out of some 80 requests for crews to get access, “they were the only organization allowed to be on the pitch,” says Purshoth Chetty, CEO of Cape Town Stadium. “No one else has been allowed on since, except for the qualifying teams and those who participated in our test events. Not ESPN, not other international media.”

“We played in the grass before any major team did,” adds Rabbi Mendel Popack, director of the Chabad Centre of Cape Town.

The video, entitled “Reaching Goals,” was produced with Popack’s tongue firmly in his cheek. Commissioned for his organization’s annual dinner in February, the 12-minute film – an edited-down version running six minutes in length can be seen on the Jewish.tv portal – uses the soccer mania sweeping South Africa as a backdrop to highlight the growth of Chabad in the country’s second-most populous city and the power of individuals to effect spiritual change.

Bedecked in red, the members of the Ikapa club who appear in the film are real soccer players. And the rabbis, wearing long black coats and polished dress shoes, are real Jewish leaders. But the “match,” including an amazing pass from a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to a strategically-positioned player, who then heads the ball into the net, was choreographed.

The message? For that, Popack and his fellow Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries went to a 1980 public talk delivered by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memory. A snippet of text from that talk introduces the film.

“A better world is the goal,” a voiceover bellows. “Earth is our ball. Every play can be the difference.”

“The Rebbe always taught us that everything we see and hear should have a lesson,” says Rabbi Asher Deren, director of Chabad of the West Coast in Cape Town’s Table View section, in explaining the choice of subject matter. “The spirit of the World Cup sweeping through South Africa gave us an opportunity to inspire people spiritually.”

“It was a brilliant spin for both the stadium and the organization as well,” says Chetty. “It represented a very wholesome type of message.”

After some introductory frames from the stadium, the rest of the video – which was produced by local industrial filmmaker Shawn Levin – features interviews with Jewish community members touched by Chabad Houses throughout the city.

“It was a wild experience,” Levin says of the shooting. “It’s definitely something to be proud of, but not from a professional or creative perspective. Everyone who’s been watching this has been doing so with different sets of eyes, and somehow, this has touched the hearts of so many people.”

According to Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson, who helped arrange for the stadium to be used, the video was an instant hit.

“I really enjoyed watching it,” says Neilson. “And it was great to do it in the stadium.”

For all of the film’s scripted quality, Popack and Deren maintain that seemingly otherworldly events happened behind the scenes.

For one, says Deren, they were invited to be one of the first groups to use the venue. For another, they had less than two hours to film, and just two days before the video was due.

“We filmed on a Monday and it hit the big screen on a Thursday,” the rabbi relates.

“It was done almost like in the army,” adds Popack. “All the professionals would say that we’d need a couple of weeks to film something like this. But one hour, 40 minutes was all we had.”

And that rabbi’s goal with his head?

“That,” laughs Popack, “only took two takes.”