Six Hout Bay boys will fly the flag among 80 nations at an international football tournament in Sweden.
The youngsters are all part of the Camps Bay-based Rainbow Team, which will compete in the Gothia Cup on Thursday July 13.
According to coach Anees Abbas, of Bo-Kaap, the boys, aged 13 to 16, will play in a stadium watched by 60 000 people, and with 752 teams playing 4500 games on 110 pitches, the tournament is considered the biggest of its kind.
The six Hout Bay players will be part of the full Rainbow squad of three teams from Camps Bay Soccer Club, and they will compete in various age divisions.
Mr Abbas, who also leads the Legends Soccer School in Camps Bay, said the Rainbow Team NGO was established about five years ago to bring children from different backgrounds together.
“We have a large pool of players from different backgrounds, from Mandela Park, Imizamo Yethu and Woodstock to Khayelitsha and other areas. We also run feeding schemes and tutoring for youths.”
Team manager Kirt Phillips, of Hangberg, has been coaching for 11 years part-time. “I love the sport and young people on or off the field and help because I want to create a better person for life.”
Under-16 centre midfielder Ashton Wyatt has been playing soccer since 2019. As the “the engine of the team”, he said he hoped to show off his skill to an international audience and compete against the world’s best.
Emihle Xala, an under-16 player from Imizamo Yethu, said this would be his first overseas trip. This is his second year playing soccer, and he said he found the Camps Bay Soccer Club to be a “safe place away from the drugs of the township”. His dream, he said, was to one day take his family out of the township.
For Noah Moor, an under-13 player, this trip makes up for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, which was cancelled due to Covid. He said he wanted to prove himself in other countries after playing soccer for eight years, practising three to four times a week at Camps Bay.
Under-16 centre-back Matthew Moody has also been playing soccer for eight years. He said soccer taught discipline and patience and he found that he was fitter than others in school activities.
Under-16 player Mfingo Tshokovu, from Imizamo Yethu, has been playing soccer for two years and said his family were proud of what he had achieved so far. He said he had always dreamed of being a professional soccer player and felt that playing European football was the first step to reaching that goal.
Under-14 player Khaden Miles said he was excited to represent South Africa after five years of playing soccer. He said the sport made him feel calm, less stressed and he enjoyed working as a team.
Mr Abbas said this is the first year Camps Bay Soccer Club is sending three teams to the tournament. “It’s the ball that humbles everyone, black, white, privileged areas and poor, different religions. When we go to Sweden, we live in a school, not a luxury life. We have to make our bed, share showers, mix with different cultures. It’s a great way to get the kids off the streets, away from drugs and gangsterism.”