Johannesburg - Twenty-nine schoolboys aspiring to be future soccer stars have been rescued from a Joburg soccer academy after months of allegedly being repeatedly raped and beaten by their coach.
The traumatised boys, aged between nine and 18, were too frightened to report their four-month ordeal at the football school in Protea Glen, Soweto.
Some of the victims on Thursday said the coach constantly beat them into submission, which was followed by molestation and rape.
When The Star arrived at the academy on Thursday, several boys confirmed the repeated assaults, while angry parents - some from as far as KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape - were seen fetching their children from the residence in Protea Glen.
On Wednesday, the 34-year-old coach, whose name is known to The Star, was arrested following a report that he had allegedly raped a nine-year-old boy.
A source close to the investigation, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Star the suspected sex predator was found at his house after he had apparently tried to commit suicide on Tuesday, when the alleged crimes came to light.
“The coach sent a message to a friend that he had done something stupid that he had drunk poison. He asked the friend to come alone to the academy’s residence.”
The coach was found in the garage writhing in pain and taken to hospital, where he is recovering under police guard in the intensive care unit .
Police said the boys were living under the same roof as their coach, who worked for the newly formed Inter-community Sports Academy.
The coach apparently took advantage of the boys’ desperation to pursue their soccer dreams, and they suffered in silence for months.
A 17-year-old aspiring player, originally from KZN, told The Star he was raped by the coach after he was promised a place in the Kaizer Chiefs team. “I came to the academy at the beginning of the year under the notion that I would play for Kaizer Chiefs. My family paid a monthly fee of R4500 for accommodation and food.”
He told of the first time he was sexually abused by the coach.
“While I was sleeping with the others, I was called by the coach to sleep in the same bed as him. I agreed. While we were sleeping he would touch me in inappropriate places and ask me to do the same.”
The boy added that he did what he was told by the coach because he loved playing soccer.
Another teen said he was one of the lucky ones. “The only thing he did to me was physically abuse me,” he said.
The 16-year-old said his relationship with the coach started last year. The coach had recruited him for the trials in Limpopo.
“During the trial season he would continuously ask me to sleep with him, but I always refused. The worst he did to me was beat me for 45 minutes with a wooden spoon from the kitchen, punch and kick me.
“He would place a stopwatch to time the beating Coach was afraid to do anything more than beat me, because he knew my father very well,” he said.
The teen said he did not want to tell his father about the abuse because he was worried it would jeopardise his chances of making it in football.
A distraught parent from KwaMashu in KZN, who asked to remain anonymous, said she rushed to the house to fetch her 17-year-old son after she heard that her child had been repeatedly abused. “My son was playing soccer in KwaMashu and we were connected to the coach through another coach. We met him in Estcourt.”
The mother said she paid out thousands of rand for her son to advance his football career. “He (the coach) would often request money for my son’s accommodation, food, sports kit and transport,” she said.
“I thought that the fees for children recruited by a major soccer team were covered. But he asked me to urgently transfer R1800 for accommodation and food.
“After I paid the R1800, he called me and said the school was far away from where they lived, and he thought it would be best to buy a Quantum to transport the boys.
“So there was a deposit that was needed and he asked me for R14 000. I told him that if I lent him the money, it would be as payment for fees for the year,” she said.
The police called her and told her to pick up her son because the academy was under investigation.
The distraught mother said she had not had the opportunity to sit down with her son to find out what exactly happened at the academy.
“But I heard that he would beat and abuse my son. The first time he hit him was when he was late after school.
“He punched and kicked him. I thought it was his way of disciplining him. The second time was when they hosted a braai at the house and my child called girls to the house.”
Soweto West police spokesperson Mzwakhe Xazi confirmed a case of rape involving a nine-year-old boy had been opened against the coach, but more reports were expected as the probe progressed.