Cape Town has hosted some of the world’s most enthralling football contests and competitions.
From the unfancied Libyans beating Ghana on penalties to lift the African Nations Championship trophy in 2014, to Germany’s demolition of Argentina at the 2010 World Cup at Cape Town Stadium. Die Mansschafts, as the Germans are popularly called, put four unanswered goals past Lionel Messi and co in the quarter-finals.
Sadly the World Cup legacy has mainly been reduced to memory.
The money meant to uplift the game in local communities through the 2010 World Cup Legacy Trust never quite reached many of its intended recipients, such as amateur clubs on the Cape Flats.
A lot of controversy still surrounds the South African Football Association’s promised actual football development from a R450 million Fifa payment after the continent’s first World Cup 11 years ago.
But football-crazy folk from some of Cape Town’s most impoverished areas couldn’t care less. They make sure the beautiful game lives up to its name in their neighbourhoods.
Like Belhar, an area known for high levels of crime and gangsterism.
Every Sunday residents host their own “mini world cup”, and there is growing interest in the tournament named Belhar Community Uprising.
Young and older footballers from across the Cape compete for prize money and bragging rights on specially marked pitches between the blocks of flats.
Event organiser Wasiem de Beer, who also plays in the competition, says it is about promoting a positive image and making a difference in people’s lives. “We want to keep the kids away from gang violence, we want to keep them away from drugs, and to make the community a safe area so people aren’t afraid to come to here.”
On any given Sunday, the tournament features as many as 24 teams. A number of matches are on the go at the same time and players are cheered on by local residents and travelling fans. The entry fee for teams is R220, which covers prize money, paying match officials, and most importantly, replacing broken windows.
Brandon Arendse is one of the tournament referees. He’s been speaking proudly of the growth of the tournament, and also about its impact on the lives of the youngsters.
“For me it is about making a positive contribution to children’s lives. It’s so nice to see the youngsters excel in sports. And I believe a child in sport is a child out of court.”
De Beer says the people in the area are fascinated by this community outreach initiative. “All they talk about is the tournament happening this week. It’s something to look forward to,” he says. “They bring their braai stands, their gazebos, some people sell samoosas, some sell paaper bites. It is almost like a picnic for us every Sunday. I am overwhelmed by the response from the community.”
Today, while some of Europe’s top teams such as Newcastle play Tottenham in the English Premier League and Juventus host Roma in the Italian Serie A, Cape Town’s mini world cup will once again be in sharp focus.
Belhar Community Uprising will continue its efforts of reclaiming spaces in the area where gangsters once ruled.
Chestnut Place, for example, used to be a very evil place,“ says Arendse. "Many people were afraid of this area. But we have turned things around and made a positive change through sports. Some of these players were gangsters and they have left gangsterism because they want to make a positive contribution to sports.”
De Beer tells Weekend Argus the competition is a stepping stone for players, young and older, to excel. He also takes them to trials at clubs in the area in the hopes of getting them a regular place in the side.
Xavier Martheze, of Parkwood, says he never misses “a Sunday of football in Belhar”.
“The soccer, the fun and the music keeps you going,” he says. “The tournament has been so important in making a difference in our lives. Before this, my friends used to be drinking and partying. And now they look forward to playing football on a Sunday.”