By Daniel Eslick
The power of football goes beyond the community it fashions between fans, the sense of belonging it creates for supporters and the revenue it generates. South African football club Ajax Cape Town, with the support of their parent club Ajax Amsterdam, have taken the influence of football to a new level, using it as a development tool and a way to help the poverty-stricken communities around Cape Town to overcome their disadvantages and learn vital life lessons.
Some of the fervour surrounding the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa was focused around the possibilities of social development and the expansion of football infrastructure in the country following the tournament.
There has always been a wealth of talent and interest in Cape Town, but previously the lack of support has meant that many children were not able to develop their skills or learn from the social benefits of the game.
Ajax Cape Town decided to combat this with their innovative Community Scheme, which was initiated even before the 2010 event began. The World Cup has made more people aware of the community-based programmes in South Africa, which focus on using the game as a social tool and continue to inspire with their commitment to the local communities.
The Ajax Cape Town Community Scheme began in early 2007, in partnership with the the British High Commission, Charlton Athletic and the South African Police Services (SAPS). The scheme consists of seven programmes all focused on the policy of youth development.
Ajax Amsterdam owns 51 per cent of the Cape Town club, and gave its full support to the club’s decision to start focusing on the community with not just financial backing but also its professional European coaching and training techniques. The European powerhouse have supported the scheme ever since its inception and believe in the importance of future social development.
The scheme combines the influence of the world's most popular sport with various programmes which help to dissuade young children from falling into the traps of drugs, alcohol and gang culture. Football is being used as a powerful tool which can help to invoke change in some of the most threatening areas of Cape Town, by giving the children the chance to escape the dangers of crime and social ills in order to pursue their dreams and become responsible individuals.
“We’re trying to ensure that these kids have a future, whether it be in soccer, as a doctor, as a photographer, it doesn’t matter"Riyaad Khan, Community Scheme administrator
One of the notable programmes includes Kick 'n' Learn, which combines social integration and the physical benefits of playing football. The programme is based in Primary Schools around the Cape Town area and gives 30 pre-selected children the opportunity to learn about essential facets of life including nutrition, the dangers of drugs and the importance of safety. Coupled with these life skills, an hour of football training is provided during each session, emphasising the enjoyable aspects of the game and the spirit of team-work.Read the whole article on football-for-life.com