Soccer initiative aims to unite community

From left, Avuyile Mgumbyxa, Mfigo Tshokovu, Avuyile Gwele, Junior Chigumbu, Onah Lowet and Uzair Davids meet twice a week for training.

A soccer programme driven by the prestigious Real Madrid Football Foundation is reaping handsome rewards in Hout Bay.

The programme, hosted by the Hout Bay International School, has been running for the past two years, but in the past year has become more structured thanks to the involvement of professional coaches from the Football 4 All organisation.

While soccer forms the foundation of the programme, its main aim is to bridge the divide that exists between Hout Bay’s
three communities, Imizamo Yethu, Hangberg and the

Accordingtoprogramme co-ordinator Keegan Walker, one of the directors of Real Madrid has a stake in the International School brand, which is how the global soccer giant came to be involved in Hout Bay.

“When we first started, there were about 20 kids involved. It had been recognised that from a very young age, there was a huge rivalry between the three communities, and we believed that we needed to bridge this divide,” Mr Walker said.

“Today we have between 40 and 45 kids in the programme.TheInterna-
tional School funds the kits
and the facilities, and Football 4 All provides the coaches,
thanks to a sponsorship from Adidas.”

The children train twice a week, and their number comprises boys and girls at under-9, under-13 and under-14 age group levels.

“Football actually plays a secondary role. What we are seeking to achieve is to develop good people, who have a good educational grounding and good values. “It is great to see the interaction we now have between the kids. It
has taken a lot of hard work to
get to this point,” Mr Walker

The children are transported to and from the International School and provided lunch as well. The Real Madrid Foun-
dation was also very “hands-on”, requiring a monthly feed-
back from the coaches and an annual report-back to the organisation.

“What is exciting is that we have been told that if we spot a talented youngster, particularly in the 11- to 12-year-old age bracket, we should inform Real Madrid, and they will have a look at the player. We do understand that at this stage the kids may not be up to European standards in terms of education and background, which is precisely why we are aiming to develop these attributes so they can be brought up to this standard.”

An important part of the programme, Mr Walker said, were home visits by the coaches, to ascertain the children’s backgrounds.

“We need to understand where they are coming from. On one occasion, we saw that a boy was acting out a bit. We then visited him at home, where he was living with his grandmother. She then told us that his parents had been killed in an accident two weeks before. As coaches having this information is important.”

When the Sentinel visited the school this week, the boys and girls were being put through their paces by way of a series of well structured drills and games.

Uzair Davids, 10, a pupil at Sentinel Primary School, said it was nice to have the opportunity to interact with children from different communities.

“I want to play soccer all my life. I really like my coaches,” he said, adding that his favourite club was Barcelona, ironically Real Madrid’s greatest rival.

Onah Lowet, 12, a pupil at the International School, said her team was “different to other soccer teams”, in that it allowed her to meet people from other areas of Hout Bay.

For goalkeeper Avuyile
Gwele, 11, another Sentinel Primary pupil, the programme allowed him to get to know other children well and make new friends.