This week we bring you a special story from South Africa, from a programme that’s running following our merger with Coaching For Hope, working to address gang violence and its many associated problems, including HIV/AIDS.
“The look in her eyes said it all…
“He was a naughty boy but he was my baby”. A student at Bramble Way Primary School in Bontewuehel on the Cape Flats, Nathaniel was only twelve when he was murdered by gang members. They said “for reasons unknown” but what reason could there be for murdering a child? Charmaine LeKay, his head teacher, held the framed picture of Nathaniel in his graduation gown and said “we do our best to protect them when they are in school but once they leave our gates I have to pray to God to watch over them.”
The school will be turning out for Nathaniel’s funeral, and the police will provide security so that no reprisals can be sparked from such a grim day, but it is this cycle of violence and reprisal that has become all too familiar for residents here.
As part of work to combat this scourge, gang violence and how to end it was the theme of a recent football tournament members of the UK’s Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) supported in Parkwood, another deprived area in South Africa suffering the same curse of unemployment, gangsterism and substance misuse. But even on a day like this, violence is never far away.
This tournament was the second Jayden Smith Memorial Tournament, honouring the short life of ten year old Jayden who had been caught in crossfire as he played in his backyard early in 2016. Ten teams of Under 11s took part in their brightly coloured shirts, donated by the PFA and bearing the TackleAfrica logo. They played on a small patch of concrete as that was all they had to play on. Their optimistically named teams (Barcelona, Man Utd, Real Madrid) and those with local names (Oasis United, Jayden Smith United) were refereed by the PFA staff and played with joy and intensity. They listened respectfully as Jayden’s father told them they must stay away from gangs and as Alderman J.P. Smith told them how sport can build healthy strong communities. The final was reaching its last minutes when the atmosphere on the street changed perceptibly. A shot rang out and a young man on a bike crashed into some bystanders and jumped up ranting and cursing. The teams were ushered to the back of the concrete space, mothers scooped up their young children and people retreated into their homes. And on a day when we remembered a young boy whose life was cut short by gang violence, our tournament had to be abandoned due to the threat posed by its never-ending presence.
John Hudson, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at the PFA said “we have been coming out to South Africa in support of Coaching for Hope and TackleAfrica’s work for ten years now, and we know what a difference a good coach can make in a young person’s life. Today we saw how much these children enjoy their football and this passion can be channelled into building a more positive future for these communities.”
In a radio interview with TackleAfrica’s Jane Carter on Africa Melane’s Cape Talk show, Melane said “Our youth are blighted… and your work is vitally needed. We look forward to welcoming you into our communities.” Having glimpsed first-hand, however briefly, what these young people suffer on a daily basis, we hope to support and strengthen the ongoing efforts made by these communities to keep young people in South Africa’s most vulnerable areas safe from harm.
Help us fund more programmes…
Our programmes are funded by a mixture of grants and donations, as well as money raised through our football marathons. These are twelve hour, six-a-side football tournaments happening up and down the country all through the summer, from Manchester to Jersey. If you want to take part, donate some money, or volunteer at an event, get in touch! Email