Hout Bay’s Serenity takes a shot at football glory

Serenity Warner on the training ground.

Young Hout Bay soccer star Serenity Warner was honoured at a special ceremony at Sentinel Primary School recently.

Hout Bay High pupil Serenity, 16, has enjoyed a remarkable year, having risen quickly through the ranks to play for South Africa at the Fifa Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay last month.

While it was not the happiest of outings for the national team with heavy defeats to Japan (6-0) and Brazil (4-1), Serenity’s selection represented a personal triumph for the young woman who has risen above her circumstances to play at the highest level.

One of four children, the Hangberg youngster started playing soccer at the age of 7. “I was playing alongside the boys. It was tough, but they never took it easy on me,” the shy teenager recalled.

With the support of her family and long-time family friend and soccer coach Ashraf Ismail, who quickly identified her prodigious talent, the midfielder joined Hout Bay United and later the Spurs women’s team, where she excelled.

One of the great challenges she faced was affording the transport costs to practices; something that very nearly stopped her progression in its tracks. A year ago, Serenity was given the chance to represent UCT, a club boasting abundant footballing resources and top-class facilities,
but she found it difficult getting there.

“I was determined though so I found a way. I just packed my bag and went there. Now I’m playing for UCT, and they give me so much support.”

In May this year, Serenity received an invitation to attend the trials for the national under-17 team, one of several players from Cape Town. Her form was clear for all to see, and she was included in the team that toured Spain in September.

While she performed admirably against Spanish club teams, her coaches advised that she needed to lose some weight if she wanted to make the World Cup squad.

“I worked really hard. Thirty-five players were then called up, and I made the final squad of 21. I felt I deserved it because I worked so hard on my fitness.”

South Africa, for whom Serenity started, drew 0-0 with Mexico in their opening match of the tournament. “I didn’t know I was starting. I was so nervous as we lined up to sing the national anthem,” she said.

Unfortunately, she did not start in the defeats to Japan and Brazil, which saw South Africa knocked out of the World Cup. However, her spirits remain high after what has been a remarkable year.

“I feel very blessed. There are so many people who are like me, but I have taken my opportunities. I want to thank my parents for what they have done for me. I need to make my family proud. As for Ashraf, I have no words to explain what he has done for me. I hope I will stay focused.”

The DA Hout Bay branch organised an appreciation ceremony for Serenity and her family at Sentinel Primary on Sunday December

Her mother Florence Warner said her daughter was passionate about soccer, and the family had always done whatever possible to make her dreams come true.

“It hasn’t been easy. We have struggled to get the taxi fare to get her to practice, but I’ve always made a plan. She wanted to become something in soccer, so my duty
was to stand with her,” Ms Warner said.

Mr Ismail said he had known the family before Serenity was born. “I have been involved with Ajax Cape Town and Serenity’s dad Ralph ran Ajax Hout Bay, so that’s the connection. Serenity has loved soccer since she was a child. When she was 6, you would always see her with a ball,” he said.

“LastyearSerenityactually wanted to give up soccer because she was finding it so difficult to make practices. The venues would change at the last minute and she couldn’t make it. But I just encouraged her to stick with it.”

The DA’s Roberto Quintas said the entire Hout Bay community was proud of Serenity’s achievements. “You have such passion, and it is so pleasing to see a young woman from Hangberg going places. We want to assist you in any way we can. We want to be on the Serenity Warner team,” he said.

He also praised Serenity’s parents for “laying the foundation for her success”.

“As parents you are so encouraging. You have shown that Hangberg can raise heroes.”

Serenity has also received sup-
port from Michelle Yon, of the non-profit Fisher Women for

“Who would have ever thought she would achieve all this? Some people believe nothing good can come out of Hout Bay and Hangberg, but you have proved them wrong.

My plea is that the Hout Bay community can help Serenity with funding so she can continue her journey,” Ms Yon said.