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.
Various interns that spend time working for the Hout Bay United Football Community