Twenty-five young soccer players from Hout Bay have the opportunity of a lifetime to compete in an overseas tournament later this year.
It has been a year to remember for the youngsters from the Leopards soccer school, which was only founded in April last year.
Not only have they received sponsorship from African cryptocurreny concern Dash Africa to become known as the Dash Leopards, making the school one of the first in the world to be sponsored by such a company, but their numbers have swelled to the extent that an under-15 team will be added to the project’s existing under-11 and under-13 squads.
Now Dash Leopards have the chance to play against teams from other countries at the Open Easter Tournament in the Netherlands over this year’s Easter weekend, competing in eight games over the two-day competition.
The soccer school is the brainchild of Hangberg coach and mentor Ricardo Phillips, a man who had dedicated the last decade of his life to upliftment projects using sport as the foundation.
With all the experience he gained from working on projects all over Cape Town, he decided to embark on the Leopards initiative last April.
Coupled with the three-day-a-week soccer component is an aftercare and study programme, which sees coaches assisting the school’s 30 students with homework and the teaching of life skills.
Sentinel Primary School, the Hout Bay International School and Disa Primary are just three schools that have come on board with the programme.
Mr Phillips has been joined in his endeavours by fellow director, John Reed and administrator and life skills co-ordinator, Brenda Davis.
Dash Africa’s commitment to the project came about thanks to Mr Reed’s relationship with one of the company’s founders, Roger Toms, who was looking for leaders in Africa to identify projects that could be included in its corporate social responsibility footprint.
“The aim of Dash Leopards is to motivate the kids and provide them with life insights so that we can send them on their way to successful lives,” Mr Phillips said.
“In Hangberg our kids are faced with a lot of negativity, so our aim is to introduce something positive into their lives. With the addition of the under-15 players in February, our numbers will be up to 45 so we are growing all the time.”
An important part of the programme is emphasising the importance of a healthy diet.
“We’ve been pleased to get the kids’ parents on board in terms of getting them to eat well,” Ms Davis said.
“However, as the programme grows we are looking for sponsorships to feed them all.”
The involvement of Dash Africa has obviously bolstered the club tremendously, but in order for the 25 players and coaches to make the trip overseas, some R300 000 will need to be raised.
The directors will also be hosting a huge fund-raising event at the Hangberg Sports Complex where the children train on Saturday February 24 from 2pm until 9pm.
The event will be headlined by popular actor and singer Emo Adams, The Rockets as well as 2017 Idols SA winner Paxton Fielies, and will also include performances by a number of Hout Bay artists.
“The kids are over the moon about the trip. We believe this experience can give them a taste of what they can become if they work hard,” Mr Phillips said.
Paying tribute to the staff at the Hangberg public library, who have also supported the Dash Leopards project, Mr Reed said it was important the children improved themselves academically.
“Many of these kids’ parents work during the day, so once they finish school for the day there is no one to look after them. Our coaches then play a surrogate role, not only improving their skills on the pitch, but assisting them with their school work,” he said.
“We would also like to appeal to the local Hout Bay business community to sponsor the programme, to supplement the efforts of Dash Africa and what they’ve offered. We believe this is a project they could be proud of.”
To find out more about the soccer project, call Brenda Davis on 061 763 9871.