by Lean Terblanche

Gansbaai Football Foundation

Giving back one kick at a time

Gansbaai Football Foundation changes lives.
Grootbos 4.JPG

Young people have the ability to see beauty in ways that adults cannot; they have the ability to dream as if they know no limits; and they have a passion that makes everything alive and significant, writes inspirational Gansbaai Football Foundation Project Manager Leán Terblanche.

In an age where children experience violence, abuse, poverty, disease and inequality, it is our responsibility to nurture and channel the passion and dreams of our youth so that they can flourish into the next generation’s leaders.

The Football Foundation of South Africa believes in the ability of youth to rise up in the face of adversity, to overcome personal challenges and to soar on the wings of possibility.

The Football Foundation’s story is one of triumphs and challenges, successes and setbacks, but most of all about dreams being realised. The Foundation was established in January 2008 by Sir Dave Richards, Chairman of the English Premier League. The catalyst was a large project in a small fisherman’s village called Gansbaai, situated two hours from Cape Town.

The Gansbaai Communal Sports Centre (part of the Barclays/Absa Spaces for Sports initiative) was launched in 2008. The Premier League, having donated the turf for the site, wanted to ensure optimal use of the facility and set up the foundation to run youth sports programmes for the surrounding communities. The site is located in the centre of three diverse and separate communities and serves as a central connecting point for the three communities.

The sports facility was a dream of Michael Lutzeyer, owner of Grootbos Nature Reserve and director of the Grootbos Foundation. Together with area manager Kat Myburgh, support was garnered from Barclays/Absa, the the Overstrand Municipality, the provincial department of cultural affairs and sport, the Grootbos Foundation and the English premier league to complete the multi-purpose sports facility.

The centre boasts a full-size artificial football pitch, two rugby fields, a grass soccer pitch, hockey pitch, cricket pitch and cricket nets, athletics track, dual purpose netball and tennis courts and a clubhouse complete with kitchen and shower facilities. The centre was quite an accomplishment for a semi-rural town and the project was conceptualised and completed in record-time.

"The foundation had its share of challenges starting out in 2008. Our aim was to improve social cohesion and to break down racial barriers, which proved to be difficult in a place where cultural prejudices were deeply ingrained in the mindsets of many people.

"Despite the gleaming new clubhouse and evergreen pitch, there was resistance to the centre and our programmes. We were also opposed by a local sports club, making it difficult for us to carry on at times, but our coaches continued canvassing at schools and in the communities gaining support from teachers and parents, and winning the hearts of children," Myburgh said.

As a female project leader in the male-dominated sports arena, she had my fair share of opposition, especially from the football fraternity. After months of consultation and talks in the township during the LFA meetings, the fraternity eventually recognised them (albeit cautiously and with reservation). It would take a couple of years before they really accepted and started supporting their programmes.

"We started off with football programmes for boys and girls, but realised that to reach more children (and children from different communities) we would need to expand our programmes. After one year of running football programmes, we introduced netball and hockey. Netball is no doubt the most popular girls’ sport in South Africa, but hockey is predominantly an elite sport in South Africa, requiring proper facilities and expensive equipment.

"With the support of a German hockey club, we introduced hockey to our kids, to nurture talent and give children possibilities to obtain bursaries from good schools. This new sport did not “belong” to any one community, serving as a catalyst for social integration. At the beginning of 2012, Athletics was added to our project and our athletes already excelled in cross country races across the province this season. This all-season programme has a lot of potential and we are eagerly watching the development of the athletes," Myburgh said.

Education through sport

Using sport as a way to educate, empower and inspire has been the foundation's aim from the outset. They implemented various education projects alongside the sports programmes. their biggest programme in terms of numbers is the Grassrootsoccer HIV/Aids sessions.

"This ten week ‘skillz’ curriculum for Grade 6 to 10 learners uses football to educate communities to prevent the spread of HIV. The curriculum is culturally sensitive and presented in a fun and interactive way to ensure that it reaches and appeals to every student.

"Dibanisa is our environmental education programme that takes 20 children on a  seven week programme of nature-based activities learning about ecosystems, fynbos and marine life, tree planting, sustainable food production, recycling and eco-friendly art. It is a highly-interactive programme, bringing nature and conservation to a level the children can understand, appreciate and enjoy," she said.

In partnership with Active Communities Network, the foundation also implements the  six month eta accredited "breaking barriers coaches" education and training programme for community coaches.

This course has transformed the lives of many of the local residents since 2011 and has added a number of skilled coaches to the foundation.

Mentors

Mentors for the Football Foundation have been Sir Dave Richards, Geoff Rothschild and Michael Lutzeyer. They have provided unprecedented support in driving the project forward, guiding its activities, giving expert advice and providing good governance. We work with a strong team of dedicated coaches under direction of our passionately devoted project coordinator Natasha Bredekamp.

The Foundation also runs a very successful volunteer programme that attracts young people from around the world who are fervent change-makers aflame with energy and new ideas. They form a vital part of our operations and have enabled us to expand our programmes to Stanford and Hermanus on a bi-weekly basis.

Our supporters include the English Premier League, Grootbos Foundation, Dibanisa, Club an der Alster, Dyer Island Conservation Trust, Wereldwijd voor Kinderen, Foundation for a Safe South Africa, Airtours and Futouris. Each of our projects is supported by a different funder that makes it more sustainable in the long run.

The right information at the right time can change the course of one’s future. The foundation’s aim is to create opportunities through sport. Ultimately each individual needs to determine their own success and destiny - by giving children access to sport and education they will develop a positive self-esteem, discipline and social skills that will positively prepare them for life.    

Young people flourish with direction and with having someone take an interest in their well-being. By engaging the youth with constructive activities that provide them with opportunities for training and employment, education and life skills, we can break free from the cycle of poverty and crime and bring hope to communities. We need to mentor a new generation of positive role models that will transform our schools, our communities and our country. Today’s young people, given hope, dreams and direction, are tomorrow’s leaders.

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