Intern Blogpost 4
My name is Nico, born in Italy and raised in Germany. I am a lifelong believer that the power of sport can educate and change people’s live.
Cape Town got me instantly. Although I didn’t plan to stay for long. It was basically just planned as a month holiday after I launched successfully a football project in Windhoek, Namibia. It turned out in 1,5 years so far and this is my game changer story.
As a fitness coach and sport enthusiast I gained vast experience across African countries teaching voluntarily football in underprivileged raw areas. Sport connects people from all walks of life and I use this powerful tool to empower and motivate young talents to strive for something bigger in life.
While I have been enjoying my time exploring beautiful places in Cape Town. As I could not get enough of it, I started to look for possibilities to volunteer in a sport project to give my stay more value. This is how Hout Bay United Football Community happened to me. Founded as a charity football club who’s mission and vision is to uplift an entire community using only local players. Reading through their website I was delighted to see they are totally aligned with my ideology.
Through GAP I applied via Email and got a few days later an invitation to introduce myself in Hout Bay. It was a very warm welcome in a cool atmosphere among young coaches and other two volunteers. Jeremy Elson, one of three trustees at HBUFC explained to me the way they operate and what he expects me to do. The beauty in this place is that you can help and get involved with all you have got and there is absolutely no reason to be shy or creative or do things for the first time in your life. So I basically offered my fitness coaching knowledge to improve the overall team fitness.
HBUFC plays in the 3rd South African national division. Only two promotions away from the Premier Division. This is insane and I was straight away impressed about how well developed their set up is compared to other teams in their league and a league above.
So my volunteering started in February 2019 and I got to know the first team, youth team players and the ladies team. All great people and always available for a laugh. The youth academy for 6 to 11 years old is where the young talents do their first steps in football. Besides this we run a wonderful project called “Rainbow football” which brings primary school kids from different cultural backgrounds together. Our female players help them afterwards with their homework in the nearby located club house.
Joining the first team for home and away games gave me so much confidence and a feeling of being part of a great project. From week to week I got the opportunity to get more involved in some decision making, predominantly about how to prepare properly pre-season 2019. I am sure, if I didn’t take it as serious from the very beginning I would never have been in the situation to been asked if I can stay for longer, as long as I want, to support the team and all operations around the club.
With me we created a program called “Personal Development Pathway” and my duties around performance training has been practically extended to getting players’ employed in local businesses, putting up nutrition plans, planning team events, presenting HBUFC to potential donors in order to get funds in, giving leadership and life skill courses, working closely together with a doctors and physio team to prevent and cure injuries, getting other volunteers in and managing the process together with their organisations and last but not least admin work all across where admin is needed. I became team leader for “Player Care, Health & Well-being”.
To be closer to the team and work efficiently I decided to move from my backpackers in Cape Town to Hout Bay. A lovely place on earth. Mother nature blessed it with all she has got. Here I started building up new networks and social contacts to get involved deeper in this mixed community of white, black and coloured people. Yea, sorry for this, don’t really like divide people by their cultural, socio economical background or skin colour but you have to experience Hout Bay yourself to understand that we are talking about a micro cosmos of South Africa with lots of Apartheid history. I promise you, that’s another beauty here.
I am working closely with the CEO Dali Fekenisi, young coaches like Xolela, a board of trustees, other volunteers, volunteer organisations and whoever comes from overseas to have an impact on HBUFC. It is not rare that you find yourself talking to former U-21 Netherlands coach Foppe de Haan or getting invited for a workshop by Hans Vonk, former Ajax Amsterdam goalkeeper. People who played for the South Africans national team like Delron Buckley or qualified UEFA A coaches like Eoin Fray with lots of experience are coming in to support what we are doing. Last but not least, the legend Jürgen Klopp who is main sponsor of HBUFC came down to have a speech in front of the community and a meet and greet with fans and players.
Today, with a strong team behind the scenes and an entire community supporting us, we are fighting to go all the way up to the Premier Division. Imagine how amazing this would be with only local players and how amazing would it be if you can be part of this incredible project? Our U-18 to U-12 teams are playing in Cape Towns “High Performance League” competing against teams like Ajax Cape Town and Stellenbosch.
I fell in love with the holistic approach of HBUFC and how it has an impact on the community. It made my decision to stay here much easier. I am always looking to make a difference. Whatever is your skill I promise you can make a difference too! Or even if it is just wanderlust that brings you to Cape Town, you will not get disappointed by this incredible surrounding.
HBUFC changed me and with me, HBUFC changed. All together for one batch.
We are more than a team – we are community.
At this point I will take the opportunity to send some special thanks:
Jeremy Elson, Founder and Trustee: If you need inspiration how to never give up. He is your man.
Alec Pooley, Academy Coach: What this man does on its own with all those raising talents is another level of commitment. Well done!
Mike Darby, volunteering his precious time with quality content. Thank you for introducing a High Performance Culture.
Dali Fekenisi, CEO and ladies coach: Sit back and get a glass of wisdom from him.
Coach X, 1st team and U18 coach: We laughed, we struggled, we understood, we connected and we made things happen.
Simphiwe Nkosi, UEFA coach at St. Johns College: Remember brother, find your gift – master it and serve the world.
Eoin Fray, UEFA A coach: Your workshop blew my mind!
Serigne Niack aka Pogba aka everything at HBUFC: Came to SA in a young age from Senegeal and made his way up from scratch. I’m pretty sure there is nothing he not able to sell to you.
Byron McKellar, 1st team captain in season 2018/19: Humbleness overload. It was always a pleasure to chat to you and get your opinion. Our player development initiative is great and you are absolutely the right man for it.
Luyanda Niyake, 1st team captain in season 2019/20: Whenever I was weak, he has been strong and lead the team. Great guy!
Iris Henkel, volunteering her time behind the scenes doing incredible things for the club. Nice having you!
Jimmy Sames, HBUFC club driver: Thanks for not kicking my ass every morning when I woke you up to fetch the players. I know I can be very annoying when it comes to be punctual.
Intern Blogpost 3
A charity which has the unbelievable power to unite all three areas of Hout Bay on the football field and nurture their children through empowerment and mentorship, thereby uplifting the whole community. Off the pitch they provide their youth the guidance required to help them along their journey through education and towards gainful employment.
Walking into the HBUFC office I was immediately greeted with an inauguration ping pong match and an introduction to the HBUFC philosophy.
In Hout Bay, the community is divided in three by the transparent barriers of apartheid. A thick body of massive whole felled trees divides one community from the other leaving no room for cultures to associate amicably.
The soccer field is the only place where you will see all races come together around the pitch and show their support for each other- something very special which challenges the deepest of deep misunderstanding between the history of cultures and races everywhere.
From the first day, I realised how much of a powerful influence I had on the children and the community at large. After growing up in an environment where I tactically learnt how to play football since the age of 4, I coached the children the same way I was taught- watching them smile as they realised they were finally being taught how to play football the right way, rather than on the streets, and in masses of bodies chasing after one ball made out of plastic bags and string, suffering horrendous infections, cuts, and burns. They also became obsessed with the way I looked asking how I was born with such smooth hair. They then asked me if players like MESSI and RONALDO were real, genuinely believing they were from a different planet and told me they don’t ever die.
When I first looked at these boys, I saw them by their bodies, their eyes, their skin, their ambience. Soon, these all became second nature as I began to see them through their awareness and consciousness viewing the world just like myself, but through different eyes. I wanted them to understand that no one has anymore importance or purpose than anyone else- a man made concept passed down through generations of their parents and grandparents own insecurities and viewpoints. I told them these players and celebrities come from the same place as us, they have mothers just like us, and they have problems just like us, but in a world fabricated with luxuries, riches, and fame, it is hard to visualise them having those problems when you live in a 5 ft by 10ft shack with no running water or electricity.
I came out here initially to coach and help out in the charity wherever I felt useful. After coaching and mentoring these children, I have truly fallen in love with them. They come to me every day to show off something special, or tell me how many goals they’ve scored or a funny joke they’ve learnt. They will accompany me when going to get heavy equipment and help me set up, just to get a precious few minutes of socialisation from someone who will actually listen, talk, and joke with them like they are just as important. I have become someone these children can confide in because a lot of them go home to lonely households where they are shut down and become emotionally unavailable.
After the children united on the football pitch, I was able to listen to their beliefs and educate them- trying to make them aware that they are not simply a product of their skin colour or gender. Primitively, we are here to survive and reproduce, but we must challenge these basic human instincts while exploring and understanding ourselves and most importantly, evolving as a human race. While they may not have found their purpose yet, they can grow and move forward with a newfound curiosity for personal growth and limitless ambitions.
I received from this experience just as much as I gave to the children. I learnt how happy and kind u can be in a world with nothing. And I also learnt how to inspire and teach children to use their own awareness to form their own beliefs and question everything instead of just believing what they are told. I gave everyone here my heart and they returned love.
Intern Blogpost 2
My name is Matteo, I’m 19 years old and studying sports journalism & -marketing in Germany. This summer I received the opportunity to do an internship at a football club. I knew immediately that I wanted to take this offer. There was just one problem... The Club is in South Africa so it would be my first time living alone, away from home, and in a country I had never been to before. Fast forward three months and it has been one of my best decision’s ever to travel abroad and stay with HBUFC.
When I came here on the 25th of September, Germany was beginning to see its first signs of winter and the weather was getting worse. But here, the weather gradually became nicer each day, so at first it felt like I was here on holiday. I lived with a German family which made the stay very easy for me. But as I look back, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a problem to stay somewhere else, because everybody welcomed me with open arms – regardless of whether they were coaches, players or admin in the office. That was one of the first things I became aware of at HBUFC. Everybody is open minded and bringing people from different backgrounds together is not just a saying – it’s their real philosophy and lifestyle. Everybody accepted me right from the beginning so I immediately felt like a part of the team. In this atmosphere it’s easy to work and be motivated. My work includes: getting funds, organizing events and helping the football club wherever I can.
Another beautiful aspect of my internship with HBUFC is my work on the field as a coach for the youth players. I was a coach for a youth team at my club for four years before I started to study and I wanted to use my experience to help the players improve. It’s very fun to work with the kids – it doesn’t matter if it’s during a regular training session or during the ‘Rainbow Program’ where we play football with kids from local schools and help them afterwards with their homework. They look up to you, listen to your words, and welcome you with big smiles as soon as you step onto the pitch. It is a great feeling which gives you so much energy throughout the day!
I’m very grateful to be here at HBUFC and for the insight I am getting in the office and on the field. The experience I get here is priceless, especially with the rewarding feeling of supporting such a great social Project.
Apart from that, Hout Bay and Cape Town are probably the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The landscape with the mountains and the ocean is just amazing and there are so many different places to visit and activities to partake in- it doesn’t matter if you want to see some culture, go climbing or go surfing. Everybody finds something they like.
To conclude, I would recommend everyone to come here. HBUFC gave me the opportunity to get an insightful view on what I want to do after I finish my time at university: I want to work for a sports club in Germany. Also my English improved daily and I learned more about a new culture whilst visiting this beautiful country, not to mention, you can also be a part of a great social project.
Intern Blogpost 1
It has been almost a month since arriving in South Africa, and the experience has been something special. Prior to my departure I felt mostly excited, with some uncertainty and anticipation about what to expect. Amsterdam, the Netherlands was a long way from the spirited shores of Cape Town, and I would be entering a place that was a far cry from what I was used to.
After a departing flight to Kenya, and the ten-hour layover that followed, I landed at Cape Town international airport, immediately feeling the summer heat on my skin as I walked off the plane. After going through border control, I was greeted by a driver named Thomas who drove me to a tucked away part of town known as Hout Bay. It wasn’t long before I found out how connected this community would be, as Thomas told me that his business operated out of the same office where I would be working.
My first impressions of the country were strangely tied to summers in the United States. The summer air paired with the drive through the winding roads gave me a strong sensation of being in New Jersey, the only difference being the drive on the left side of the road. The landscape was breathtaking. Mountains and peaks were scattered across the horizon and palm trees danced in the breeze. The vibrant colors of the flowers rose above the walls and barbed wire that surrounded buildings, and lined the streets to create a brilliant spectacle.
The town here is quite nice. There are a handful of grocery stores in the area, nice restaurants, a few shops spread across town, and even an international school right by the football pitch. A lot of the time I can honestly say that I don’t feel like I’m in an African country. It feels more like California or the south of France.
Though it’s hard to give an accurate description of the people’s feelings here, having only been for such a short period of time, it’s clear to me that not only Cape Town but Hout Bay is a very unique place. Never in my life have I experienced wealth and poverty so close to each other. One minute I can be sitting in the team bus, driving through an impoverished township, and just a few minutes down the road are neighborhoods with guarded entrances and pools.
I’ve learned that there are different kinds of people here as well. When South Africa was colonized by the Dutch and the English, it left behind many white Europeans to find their place in the country. This was in addition to the native blacks that had lived in South Africa for a long time prior to their arrival. A third racial group emerged not long after. These people had many different ethnicities in their heritage and were labeled as coloured during the apartheid era. Over the course of history there has been lots of tension between the blacks, whites, and coloured groups of people, and racism continues to be a pressing issue in the country.
In Hout Bay there are different neighborhoods where you can find each group of people. It was described to me as Hout Bay being a petri dish of South Africa, where the town symbolizes the different walks of life in the country. Everyone lives separately in their own culture and lifestyle, but at the same time, everyone walks amongst each other in town, and the connection between the people here is very close. Every person I come across seems to know someone else that I’ve met, or the place where I work. I can sense that even though sometimes people might have trouble accepting each other, tourists included, they are all part of Hout Bay, and the shared sense of pride in the community somehow still brings them together.
I still have a lot of time, and I’m excited to educate myself more regarding what goes on here. I hope you enjoy reading about my experiences. In the next uploads I’ll be talking about football, the club of course, Hout Bay United Football Community (HBUFC), Cape Town, and more.
Various interns that spend time working for the Hout Bay United Football Community