It seems almost unimaginable that only a season ago, the Hout Bay United Football Community (HBUFC) men’s team were clinging to life in the Safa Western Cape league, South Africa’s fourth tier of soccer.
For a second year running, they only managed to survive relegation on goal difference, and prospects for the future did not look any better. For the three-year-old club, even the idea of challenging for a place in the ABC Motsepe League seemed a distant dream.
However, a year in football can be a long time, and with the determination and belief of the club’s founding members, that dream became a reality when Hout Bay United beat Royal Blues from the Safa Central Karoo region 1-0 in the regional play-off at the end of May.
Given that the formation of the club was primarily to unite the young people of Hout Bay through a common love of soccer, while also equipping them with much-needed life skills, their promotion is a remarkable achievement in terms of competitive sport.
This week, the Sentinel sat down with one of the club’s founders and trustees, Jeremy Elson, to learn more about HBUFC’s incredible journey.
“About six or seven years ago, we played social football in Hangberg. It started as a group of local dad’s and grew to include players from all Hout Bay’s communities. Players were of all ages and some of the local teenagers would come every week. We brought two sets of football shirts and laid them out on the field at the same time each week. This became a regular fixture and with time many of the dad’s started to help the local teenagers in small ways- with holiday jobs, sponsoring boots, etc. The kids were really well behaved and everyone looked forward to the game each week,” he said.
“We really built up good relationships with these kids. Then about three years ago, the principal of Hout Bay High School, Juan Julius, asked to speak to us. He told us that some of the kids playing soccer were having problems at school, which we found surprising since these were really nice kids. After this meeting. we were approached by two Hangberg guys, Ricardo and Sydney Phillips, who asked us whether we would be interested in buying a franchise team in the national third division. Together with my co-founders, Alec Pooley, Simon Trupp and Jaap Kreeftenberg, we came to the decision that we would. Our idea is that the club would not just be about football, but a means to unite all the communities of Hout Bay and create social upliftment through mentorship, just the same as in that first social game.”
It was hoped that through the club, the youth would be given the best chance of succeeding, in life as well as football.
In the first season, Mr Elson and his committee set about putting youth structures in place, from under-11 level all the way to senior level, catering to both men and women. That first season teams played in the Good Hope Local Football Association competition.
“One of the things we found was that it was hard to assist the football association when we were playing against the other local teams in the association, not forgetting it was our aim to unite different communities. We actually wanted to help uplift those players and coaches. After that season, we decided to change our focus to more social upliftment projects.
“One of these is called Rainbow Football, where kids from schools all around Hout Bay come together and play in mixed teams against one another. Afterwards the football kids spend an hour being taught how to read in a Wordworks class facilitated by 12 locally trained ladies. We use our players from the Elite team to coach and mentor these children.”
A number of players were also sent on coaching courses, with the result that they now employed 14 player coaches on various programmes and academies.
“We also run a car wash project in Cape Town for the players and three players also obtained work as landscapers at the International School of Hout Bay through the corresponding life skills programme with Bidvest. All 30 players in our squad are now employed or studying.”
But while great strides were being made in terms of social programmes, there were still problems on the pitch.
Again HBUFC lagged at the bottom of the league, and again they managed to scrape through on goal difference.
However, midway through last season Mr Elson and his team received a surprise phone call.
Representatives from the International Olympic Committee were wanting to commission a documentary on taking a team of under-achievers to new heights, and HBUFC, still struggling to integrate players, fitted the bill. The result was that former Bafana Bafana legend Matthew Booth was sent to mentor the club for a week.
Almost instantly, his presence was to have a “profound” effect on the team.
“Matthew saw what our players could do, and the players really responded to him. With their new enthusiasm, we decided to flip our business model. For our third season, we decided to recruit the best coaches and work with a group of only local Hout Bay players. We would train more and save money.”
And so it was that another former Bafana Bafana player, Bradley August came on board to take the reins of the elite seniors’ team.
Described my Mr Elson as a man direct in his approach in order to reach the desired goal, he quickly established a winning mentality and motivated the existing support staff, including manager and goalkeeper coach Morne Crompton, assistant coach Cecil Abrahams – “a man with a strong moral compass” – and influential kit manager Thomas Matushe.
Another former Bafana star, Dominic Issacs, was brought in to assist the youth teams alongside Mr Abrahams.
Not only did all these coaches put in extensive hours to get results on the field, but they also committed themselves to the Rainbow Football programme, thereby buying into the overall HBUFC culture.
With sound structures in place, the team marched on towards the recent play-off, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Not that Mr Elson and his team have not set their sights on even higher honours.
“We want to push the National First Division, and ultimately the PSL. In Hout Bay, there is a wealth of vibrant football talent, and we need to tap into that. We have already partnered with the City of Cape Town at the base level to get more kids involved in our programmes. We’ve also got an elite ladies team, and we will be focusing more on that. We have three trustees, eight full-time coaches, 14 player coach-mentors and dozens of men and women players and in our three years our programmes have assisted more than 2 000 kids.
“We have just put together a plan for the next two years, and we are very positive about the future.”
As the project continues to grow in scope our budget grows in size. We’re looking for local patrons to join our committee. Anyone that has some spare positive energy, a passion for our unique Hout Bay community and enjoys soccer should get in touch – it’s exciting times and together we can create something really special.”
* HBUFC need volunteers. They’re looking for coaches, mentors, mothers and fathers.
The best way for juniors to start is to attend the free Saturday morning academy on the main field opposite police station from 8am to 9.30am or email firstname.lastname@example.org
They’re also looking for local patrons to join the committee. Email email@example.com To follow HBUFC and keep up to date with projects, fixtures and events, find them on Facebook: houtbayfootball and Instagram: houtbayunitedfootballcommunity HBUFC replica match shirts are available at R650 each in all sizes. All proceeds to go the HBUFC Trust.