From being shot at, to get a shot at representing South Africa in the international tag Rugby series in Ireland, a Cape Town man is grateful that sport saved him from becoming a crime statistic.
O’Neal Daniels, who grew up in one of the roughest neighbourhoods in Mitchells Plain, never imagined that he would get an opportunity to represent his country on the international stage.
The 26-year-old will be a member of the Tag Bok team who will take part in this year’s tag rugby series in Ireland come August.
Daniels, who lives in Rocklands said it took nearly dying to turn his life around.
“I was part of that friend-group who followed the wrong path, that always got into trouble and, even though I knew I grew up in a troublesome environment, I was too blind to notice that I was heading there too.”
Daniels said he had to change schools three times to stay safe.
“It was that bad, I got attacked, I got shot at and I just was not winning.
“My parents used to tell me to leave that life. I couldn't understand why, I thought they were just trying to get me away from ‘my friends’. But now that I am older I realise that they did it so that I (wouldn’t) end up in a coffin.
“I came to a point where I needed to be honest with myself, that the life I was living was not going to get me anywhere. I’ve seen many of my friends choose gangsterism, and I’ve seen how they died before they could live their dreams. I knew I needed to stop.”
He said he then put all his energy into sports from the age 16.
“Any type of sports, track, soccer, rugby, you name it. Instead of becoming part of gangs, I became part of a team,” he said.
“Things have changed drastically (because) now I model, I work and I play sports and the thing that makes me the happiest is seeing my mother proud of me. That's why I do it, for her.”
He had the opportunity to do a personal trainer course through his work with sports apparel brand Adidas last year. Daniels also has a certificate in sports science management from Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
“I used the experience to invest back into my community by training with the boys and trying to get them to take the proper path.”
In January, Daniels got the pass he always dreamed of receiving when he was chosen for the team to go to Limerick, Ireland.
However, financial restraints could cause Daniels dreams to go offside.
A letter to Daniels from the national tag rugby team explains that there is no sponsorship available and all players, management and coaches are expected to fork out R27 085.
The letter signed by Stuart McConnell, chairman of the International Tag Federation and director of Tag Rugby, explains how Covid-19 hampered the sport in South Africa whose team had not been part of international competitions since July 2019.
Anyone who wishes to help Daniels can contact him on 072 577 2338.