Bringing Imi community together through football

Members of the Kawala United seniors team are, at back, from left, Phandle Mairo, Sbu Mgcobela, Lloyd Ndude, Mfura Phandle and Mfundo Ndude, and from from left, Nera Mhaga, Ndude Madlisa, Solani Bhajina, Ndora Mfecane and Mere Ndude.

The highly-competitive Hout Bay soccer league welcomed a newcomer in August last year in the form of Kawala United Football Club.

Not much was known about this outfit, aside from the fact that its founder, Siyanda Mrobo, had been an up-and-coming player before he was struck down by a severe case of tuberculosis.

However, such was his love of the game, Mrobo pivoted to become coach of his residence team at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), where he was studying for a diploma in mathematical technology.

Impressive as this qualification was, he felt his talents could be better utilised as a teacher, and subsequently enrolled for and obtained a postgraduate certificate in education.

This allowed Mrobo to join Hout Bay’s Oranjekloof Moravian Primary School, a position that afforded him the chance to reconnect with the people of Imizamo Yethu, a place where his passion for soccer grew during his formative years.

Interacting with his pupils, he quickly began to understand that the township’s youth were growing up in a climate of crime, drugs and alcohol, and felt something needed to be done.

Furthermore, while he always had immense respect for the teams playing in the Hout Bay league, he felt that youngsters were often shunned by more established players and never given the chance to shine on the pitch.

The game, he believed, should not be about inner circles and cliques.

It was from these observations that Kawala United was born.

“As much as we like football, our main thing was to bring all the people of Imizamo Yethu together,” Mrobo said.

“You are finding people who have come from other parts of Cape Town and settled in Hout Bay all playing in the same team. You find the Malawians or other foreign nationals playing in the same team. We wanted to change that. At our club, we don’t kick anybody out.”

He believed that Imizamo Yethu youth could lead the way for others to follow, and as such, they were being specifically tar-
geted for recruitment by Kawala United.

“There is a huge problem with drugs and alcoholism in IY, but if we can get the youngsters playing soccer, it will make a huge difference.”

In only seven months, Mrobo has established an under-14 team and seniors’ team for 19 to 25, while he is currently recruiting at under-16 level.

Perhaps even more impressively, these teams are turning heads with their performances on the pitch.

At a tournament on Freedom Day, the seniors went all the way to the semi-finals, before being knocked out in a penalty shoot-out.

The juniors have also put in some fine performances as the season has progressed.

“There is a lot of excitement among the youth about what we are doing,” Mrobo said.

“I think people have responded because my coaching style is to be diplomatic. I take the time to sit down and understand the players by asking them what is going on
in their personal lives and at home.

“One of the things I have tried to emphasise is that at this club, everybody is equal.”

The training regimen for both seniors and juniors is one of which even professional teams would be proud. Five days a week, the players gather at a patch of ground alongside the Hout Bay Sports Complex where they are put through their paces from 5.30pm.

The coach would have it no other way.

“I have to make an example for these kids. It’s not just about soccer; it’s about learning life skills like time management and how to interact with other people, just as you would in the working world,” Mrobo said.

One of those who has taken this ethos to heart is club captain Mfundo Ndude, who was drawn to the club by its diplomatic, less hierarchical approach.

“I also help the younger kids with their soccer, it’s part of being a player at this club. And be-
cause of this, I think the kids like what we are doing here,” Ndude said.

Understandably, the task of getting Kawala United’s name out in the community has not always been easy. In addition, finding the funds for equipment and other football essentials has presented its own challenges.

Fortunately, Mrobo’s appeal for assistance caught the attention of Geoff Hainebach, a Hout Bay resident who has helped a number of software and tech companies get off the ground.

Mr Hainebach said he viewed his involvement as an investment in the club and the youth.

“The next step will be to look at fund-raising opportunities. We’ve talked about running a carwash and a operating a stand selling boerewors rolls. The main thing for now is to get equipment for the players.”

Mrobo said there was a wealth of talent in Imizamo Yethu, and his club hoped to harness as much of this as it could.

“Our aim is to bring people together, but we ultimately want to see our players in the professional leagues. I truly believe we can do that.”