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The Positive Power of Soccer

Matt Schmitt, from University of Central Florida, and the kids of Khayelitsha

South Africa has made immense changes during the past few decades, but racial disparities remain to this day in the townships of Cape Town. The townships, a remnant of the Apartheid era, were originally government-mandated communities established along racial lines, moving whites into the best areas and reserving the worst locations for black South Africans.  Although the racial splits are no longer enforced, the communities have remained generally segregated in both location and opportunity.

Cape Town’s newest township is Khayelitsha, which is the local Xhosa word for “new homes.” The township, established in 1983, has grown to house over a million residents in modest homes and piecemeal shacks. Risks run high and opportunities are low within the many streets of the sprawling township, the biggest in Cape Town and second largest in the whole country, but thankfully there are several local organizations determined to keep children off the streets, such as the local soccer team Firefighters FCРa subsidiary of the Boys and Girls Club of South Africa.

Much like the YEP! Clan, featured in a previous post, Firefighters FC is an after-school program built to keep kids active and engaged. Khayelitsha, once a battleground during the end of Apartheid, has transitioned from a place of riots to a place of community, and the kids on the soccer team are leading the charge.

Semester at Sea students enjoyed the unique privilege of joining children from both the YEP! Clan and Firefighters FC for an afternoon of good ol’ good-natured soccer. The game went down to the wire on a classic shootout, but the score didn’t matter as much as the shared afternoon. We’d like to issue a hearty enkosi, or “thank you,” to the many programs of Khayelitsha for opening their doors and showing the Semester at Sea community the incredible changes taking place in the townships of South Africa.

Gabby DiMarchi (Springfield College), Mingge Wu (Fudan University), Marissa Pledger (University of San Diego), Matena Babrikova (Ithaca College) and their soccer squad teammates from YEP! Clan and Firefighters FC
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