Cape Town - For many, soccer is only an extra mural activity, but for a group of Philippi youngsters – it has been a beacon of hope and a refuge for the past 20 years.
With Philippi East currently sitting at number nine of the top 30 murder stations on the October to December 2020/21 crime statics, Thandabantu Football Club has been a safe haven for teenagers escaping social ills in the area.
Situated less than 25km away from Cape Town, the area is home to more than 200 603 people, according to the 2001 population statistics from Stats SA.
Coach reverend Erick Madikane spearheads the team, which has five divisions, with more than 60 youngsters between the ages of 11 and 16. The team was established in 2001, after Madikane noticed that there were no developmental programmes in the area, with children as young as 14 involved in criminal activities.
The club started as a street football club with no kit, and only got a breakthrough in 2007 after participating in a tournament in Mitchells Plain, where it won its first kit. From there, the team never looked back.
“The team is now in the New Crossroads Soccer League, with numerous players now playing for prominent local clubs. I have managed to produce quality players for big teams in the Cape Town soccer industry, however, we are still struggling as a team – in terms of finances, kits, and transporting the players to games. Growing up in a disadvantaged community like Philippi, which is rife with crime, is rough for a young boy with no resources to reach their dreams,” said Madikane.
About 10 players have been selected by soccer academies to play in bigger leagues, this year only, with the team boasting 24 trophies to date.
“I am their friend and also play the role of a father. These boys come from different backgrounds and come with different challenges, and it is still up to me to ensure that they are not only physically fit, but also mentally fit.
“They know and are confident to talk to me about whatever challenges they might be going through. This is more than just about soccer, it is about the bigger picture,” he said.
With the tremendous work that Madikane has done with the youngsters, he, however, decried the lack of support from the community and parents. For the past 20 years, Madikane, who is now unemployed, said he has been financing the club's needs from his own pocket.
“Pleas for donations, even from local businesses, have proven unsuccessful but that doesn't stop me from doing what I believe I have been called for,” said Madikane.
To keep the dream of the Philippi youngsters alive, with any form of donations, you can call Madikane at 078 303 9222.
** This piece from part of the Cape Argus’ “Starfish Project“.
Through our Cape Argus Starfish Project we want to identify and amplify those voices in our most distressed communities who help keep young people away from crime.
Like the story of the starfish, it is about helping to save those we can. If our project resonates with you, the Cape Argus offers a platform for you or your organisation to tell your story.
We invite non-political community groups, NGOs and individuals to share with us what they do to help turn young people away from crime. Join the Cape Argus Starfish Project by emailing your full name, address and contact details to [email protected]