Cameron Isaacs and Thahir Corker are both 6 years old. They’ve seen the older kids playing soccer. They wear old and torn sneakers but have great ambitions, "We also wanna play soccer but we don't have barks”. They need soccer boots to play football and somewhere safe to play. Not a big ask, but a tough one to deliver in Lavender Hill.
When you live in gangster-land, in the shadow of drugs with few opportunities in life, sport is an escape. You dream of becoming the next Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Harry Kane, with the crowd roaring for you in Barcelona or Madrid or London. The Guardians of the National Treasure support nearly 400 girls and boys to play soccer every week. No one is turned away – whatever they have on their feet. Enthusiasm and energy are rated higher than the latest team strip.
Last weekend Stoke City FC Kicks programme partnered with Oasis to run the Street Soccer One-Day Tournament. OASIS founder Clifford Martinus grew up in the Cape Flats and through seeing where a lot of his friends and others around him ended up, Clifford wanted to make a positive impact which, after many years of community work in the Cape Flats resulted in the creation of Oasis at the start of the new millennium, a Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) focusing on the development and upliftment of underprivileged youth and adults living with marginalised communities through soccer and other activities.
Benito Abrahams, under 12 striker with LHFC was the Highest Goal Scorer and Player of the Tournament. And for the girls, Nikita Lombardt GNT won the All-Round Player award at the Oasis/Stoke City one day tournament.
Lavender Hill Football Club (LHFC) was founded in 2018 as part of the transformation and upliftment programme in gang-infested Lavender Hill . Senior coach Ruzin Jackson (D-licence) had previously been coaching in areas outside Lavender Hill because there was no soccer locally. When the opportunity came up to return to Lavender Hill Coach Jackson immediately resigned and came home, "This was always my dream " said Jackson, now coaching LHFC. Jackson has a team of five coaches developing and building LHFC . Training Monday to Thursday the coaches train 7 teams (under 8/under 10/under 12/under 15/under 16, and two 1st Division teams) bringing a positive healthy atmosphere to Lavender Hill.
From such humble beginnings, armed with determination and energy small heroes are born. In weekly practice older kids help the younger ones, growing their skills. on both sides. And there is some real talent coming through the ranks.
One such player is Nashwin Shane Lallo, age 20, aka ‘”Lesanna”. He is from Lavender Hill and currently playing semi pro (SAB League) with Greenwood Amateur Football Club (AFC), as a midfielder defender in jersey number 12. His footballing hero is International hero : Steven Gerrard in jersey number 8.
He told us about his football dream, “I want to become a professional, playing international soccer. I want to make our community proud. There is no positive role models here beside Ralph Bouwers [CEO and founder of the Guardians of the National Treasure] that brought soccer back to Lavender Hill after almost 10 years.”
But he faces some tough challenges to making his dream come true:
“There is nothing here for us to train and condition ourselves. The kids look at us every day coming from other areas outside Lavender Hill where we train. The idea of sport is to inspire our young. How is that possible if they are left behind in a drug and substance abusing community. We come back after dark at risk due to the gang-wars and drug abusers roaming the nights. I find it difficult to get to training and it's financially and mentally challenging have to leave your community behind in search for an opportunity. Our community has the most skilled youngsters but the lack of sporting, especially soccer (our passion) causes the young boys to lose hope that things will change. That strengthens the Drug Lords recruitment to gangsterism.”
Another talented player is Sheldon Williams, also age 20, aka ‘”Turbo”, also plays for Greenwood AFC. He is a striker in the number 13 jersey – the same number as his hero, Michael Ballack. He wants people to know about his community, “I want to put Lavender Hill on the map by following my dream to play for Bafana our South African soccer team. Our communities on the Cape Flats had hundreds of talented footballers: Benedict Saul "Benni" McCarthy is a South African former footballer and currently the head coach of Cape Town City. McCarthy is the South Africa national team's all-time top scorer with 31 goals, just one name to mention. Should opportunities and the playing field be equal, then stars will be born. Many nights I feel like practicing or just jogging but living in Lavender Hill makes it harder for us to excel. The lack of sporting facilities and support doesn’t only limit me but also the youngsters looking up to us - they feel it's not worth it.
Thanks to the Guardians of the National Treasure soccer is back and people are taking all over the Cape Flats and Lavender is changing.
Sheldon says, “The kids are starting to call my name when they see me and talk about football with me on every corner and at every opportunity in the community.
When Ralph Bouwers walked with us in the community it was the first time after many years of playing semi pro football that I felt that it's true worth.”
Nelson Mandela said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”
Nashwin Shane Lallo
Teams: Greenwood AFC, Cape District Football Association
Position: Midfielder Defender
Team number: 12
2009 his first debut South Peninsula FC
Player of the year 2010
2010 he joined Cape District Football Association
2014 signed by Greenwood FC (semi-pro)
Birthdate: 25 April 1997
Teams: Greenwood AFC, Cape District Football Association
Team number: 13
2008 his first debut at South Peninsula
Player of 2008 - under 11
Player of 2010 - under 13
Player of 2011 - under 15
Player of 2012
2015 he joined Cape District Football Association
2015 signed by Greenwood FC (semi-pro)
Birthdate: 19 June 1997