DEEP HEAT URBAN ATHLETES: Ubuntu Football Academy
Situated in Cape Town’s Deep South, Ubuntu Football is a non-profit football academy with a mission to mentor and educate the next generation of African leaders.
“60% of children in South Africa are growing up without a father in their homes,” says Shawn Buck, Director of Development at Ubuntu. “Whilst this may feel overwhelming, we are determined to play our part in effecting change! And, what better way than to use football as a tool to not only connect with our learners through our mutual love of the game, but to provide them with as holistic an education as possible (mental, physical, spiritual and emotional) that will hopefully enable them to take their place in the world and live their best lives.”
Most of Ubuntu’s learners and young footballers hail from South Africa’s poor and disadvantaged communities. “We run community outreach football programmes, ‘Football Forward’ and ‘Skills School’”, continues Buck. “It provides us with the opportunity to connect with as many children as possible, and to observe a wide range of football skills. Those who show talent are invited to the Ubuntu Football Academy Trials from which the very best get selected and offered a full-time spot at our academy.”
To make this opportunity as accessible as possible, the families of learners are required to only pay what they can afford, from a contribution towards fees or the cost of some of the child’s stationery. As a non-profit, Ubuntu relies heavily on funding from both American and South African donors (corporates and individuals).
Founded by Casey Prince and Michael Jenkins, Ubuntu Football Academy first opened its doors in 2011 with 16 learners between the ages of 12 and 13. Originally making use of a local school in the area for its education arm, 2016 saw Ubuntu register as an independent school beginning with Grades 6 through 8 in January 2017. Today, Ubuntu is a fully functional professional soccer academy with a residence and registered school and, to date, approximately 100 young and teenage boys have had the trajectory of their lives irrevocably shaped for the better by it.
Chadley Philander (age 21)
“I come from the small community of Steenberg. It’s a rough area. Ubuntu gave me the opportunity to escape and is responsible for helping me get to where I am.”
There have been some knocks and challenges along the way. “At the end of my Matric year, I was given the opportunity to study in the States. However, I had to write a SAT exam. I failed. Three times. It knocked me! It left me feeling and believing that I just wasn’t good enough. But Ubuntu and Coach Casey never gave up on me. They kept on motivating and believing in me.”
“Because of Ubuntu, I was given the opportunity to experience a GAP year as a teaching assistant at a local junior school. Today, I continue to work at the school and am in my first year of a Bachelor of Education through UNISA. It’s a new venture for me and I am so excited at what the future holds. It has made me realise there are other ways to fulfil my dreams. What keeps me going is my desire to have a positive impact on my community, to help dispel the huge amounts of negativity that exist and to positively influence children’s lives. I believe I am on my way to achieving exactly that!”
“I am so very grateful as if it wasn’t for Coach Casey and Ubuntu, I would never have received these opportunities.”
Enrique Jacobs (age 17)
Hailing from Sea Breeze, a small community opposite Lavender Hill, Enrique spent most of his time playing football in the road. “But it wasn’t very pleasant. I was always surrounded by bad influences and gangsterism. I told my parents that we needed to leave. I wanted the best for myself, my brother and our futures.”
At the age of 10, Enrique was spotted by Coach Casey. “A couple of weeks later, Coach Casey came back to watch me play and invited me to attend a trial. Out of 50+ boys in my area, I was selected to join Ubuntu.”
“Being part of Ubuntu has changed my whole mindset and my life. I no longer procrastinate, having learnt the value of time and getting things done at the right moment. It has given me so many opportunities, for which I am so grateful. If it wasn’t for Ubuntu, I wouldn’t be receiving either the level of education or football training that I now enjoy.”
“I dream of becoming either a professional footballer or entrepreneur. Ubuntu teaches us to have two dreams. So many children grow up chasing one dream and if they get injured, or something happens to them, they then have nothing to fall back on.”
What keeps me going is being able to wake up each morning and do the things I love – soccer and schooling, each one taking me closer to fulfilling at least one of my goals and dreams.
Phumlani Mahabe (age 14)
In Masiphumele, a township on the Cape Peninsula, everyone knows Phumlani. “I think I’m already famous, because of my football.”
Like Enrique, Phumlani spent most of his time playing football on the streets of his township. “But there was so much negativity from friends. Some had given up. Some smoke and drink. Some rob shops.”
“A friend told me that Ubuntu was holding trials. I attended, and it has changed my life! Not only is it giving me a quality education and helping to grow my football skills, but I have learnt things that I never knew about before. Things such as values – the importance of working together, family, respect and honour.”
“My goal is to be a professional footballer. What keeps me going is that I want to be part of bringing positivity into my community. I want to have a positive impact and to serve as a role model for both my mates and family, and I see professional football as one of the ways in which I can achieve this.”
Says Buck, “Our boys move on to exciting opportunities in professional football, full university scholarships and local jobs. It would be amazing if one of our players became the next great soccer star, but our real hope is that through the mentorship and education provided, they will become great fathers, community leaders and role models!”
Keep Going Ubuntu Football!