News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Saturday February 16th 2019

Soccer4Hope shines the light for township girls

Yugendree Naidoo

Each week over 80 primary school children gather on an uneven field in the middle of Nyanga, to play soccer.

But these children, who tackle, dribble and shoot for goal with skill and enthusiasm, are all girls – and they’re helping to break the stereotype of soccer being a game exclusively for boys and men.

The girls are part of the almost 700 girls from 34 primary schools spread across the Cape Flats townships of Khayelitsha, Nyanga, Philippi and Crossroads who are part of the groundbreaking Soccer4Hope programme.  And if Bafana Bafana doesn’t get its act together, they might just find that within a few years they could be competing with women for places in the national team.

The girls not only compete in a league of their own, but also participate in a life skills programme called Skills4Life which, like the soccer, is run by the non-profit organisation, Hoops4Hope.

The new season’s first league match kicked off on March 17, and among the enthusiastic participants was Sisipho Magxunyana, 13, a Hlengisa Junior school grade seven pupil, who said she made the transition from sitting on the coach and watching soccer on TV to playing the game, two years ago.

“I support Kaizer Chiefs and Siphiwe Tshabalala is my favourite player,” she said.  But Magxunyana said she also enjoyed the skills for life curriculum, because it taught her important skills like “responsibility and ubuntu”.

“Soccer keeps me busy for a long time and out of trouble.”

Another participant was grade 8 pupil Andisiwe Bebeza, who said her dream was to one day play for Banyana Banyana, the women’s national side, and support her family from her earnings as a professional soccer player.  “It would be a dream come true,” said Bebeza.

Also wild about soccer is St. Mary’s Primary grade 5 pupil Nozibele Baba, who also dreams about one day playing for the women’s national team.  But soccer had already made a difference in her life, helping her avoid going down the “wrong path” like many young girls in her community who became pregnant while still teenagers, she said.

Soccer4Hope was launched in 2006 in collaboration with Grassroots Soccer – an NGO that uses football to combat HIV/Aids – and the international non profit organisation Hoops4Hope. Hoops4Hope supports youth development by working in partnership with schools, homeless shelters and community organisations in Southern Africa.

Since its launch, Soccer4Hope has developed an internationally-recognised HIV prevention curriculum that uses football to teach prevention and awareness of the virus, as well as critical life skills and leadership to youngsters.  Besides providing sustainable and innovative programs for the empowerment and upliftment of young girls in disadvantaged communities, the programme also organises soccer teams, leagues, tournaments, events and camps.

Founder and international director Mark Crandall said the organisation used “both sport and the curriculum to make a difference in young people’s lives and develop future leaders.  Programme curriculum manager Wewe Sokoyi said: “We are hoping to make an impact on the young girls’ lives, as many of them…come from homes where there is high unemployment and alcohol abuse. We want them to be able to stand up for themselves and set goals in their life,”

One innovative way in which soccer is used as an educational tour is in Soccer4Hope’s HIV prevention program is to have the girls dribble a soccer ball between orange cones that represent HIV and Aids risks – honing their skills at the same time.

Nobuhle Tindleni, a John Pama Primary grade three teacher, said the programme was invaluable as it not only kept the girls occupied, but also taught important life skills.

But coach Xolani Ntandathu said there are still many problems to overcome, including a lack resources like soccer fields and balls.

Tags: Hoops 4 Hope, Mark Crandall, Skills 4 Life, Soccer4Hope

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