Scoring a goal for the poor

by Jul 11, 2012Magazine

scoring-a-goal-for-the-poorInterview with Riedewaan Anthony, coach and founding member of Hanover Park Football Club (established in 1980).
The Soccer World Cup has come and gone and its promise of a better life for all never materialized. Hanover Park Football Club is located in a township on the Cape Flats, an area plagued by high unemployment, drugs and gangsterism. Yet it manages to attract a loyal following of over 300 young people who gather every week to practice. The club often competes in the PSL despite continuous difficulties. It is completely self-sustaining and depends on the generosity of an army of volunteers drawn from the surrounding community to keep it going. The football pitch is the same one where legendary international football player Bennie McCarthy as youngster played not too long ago.
A central driving force in the club is founding member and coach Riedewaan Anthony. The club is affiliated to Hanover Park Civic Association, one of the oldest civic formations in the Western Cape. The civic meets in the Hanover Park Football Club’s clubhouse (a renovated, formerly disused cricket club meeting room at the football club home pitch and training ground). At Nantes, Hanover Park I spoke to Riedewaan Anthony about the club and the World Cup.
Amandla! (A!): How does your club survive?
Riedewaan Anthony (RA): Solely on money and resources raised by others and myself in the community. All our coaches, managers and administrators are volunteers who give their time to the club.
A!: Did you receive anything during the World Cup 2010?
RA: To us the World Cup was a non-event in terms of any spinoffs for community soccer or the upliftment of football in our area. I would almost say that it did more damage in raising expectations; for some it had a demoralizing effect by promising things it had no intention of delivering. On the other hand, many of us were never naive enough to put too much hope in its
benefits. We know now, as we knew then, that only hard work and dedication keep clubs like ours going.
A!: Why do you think the World Cup delivered so little eventually?
RA: Ah, it was football for the elite and conducted on business principles to enrich and benefit a few individuals and big business. Will it be any different in Brazil in 2014? I very much doubt it!
A!: What do you think the problem is?
RA: It is structured with pretence at democracy. It uses peoples with love for this game around the world to build a lot of excitement and fanfare that is really quite empty and hollow in the end. We here will always love this game; the money will always be secondary. But I must also say that the World Cup could be so much more if the will was behind it, instead it is about commercial
interests and money, both locally and overseas. There are many struggling soccer and sports clubs like ours that survive against all odds with no money or fancy clubhouses and facilities, whose situation has not improved one bit. It’s a real shame that on the one hand you have some very wealthy people in sports while another section of society is crying out with huge needs.
It almost like two different worlds (pointing to the field) we tend to forget that people like Benny McCarthy started here. We boast about these triumphs without realizing where they came from.
A!: So what are you trying to do with this club?
RA: Well, apart from the football itself, we try to build hope in this community by bringing young people together despite all the challenges and temptations they face here on a daily basis. We offer them a space to nurture their talent. Our training sessions are very important and your commitment is tested by whenever you turn up for practice on a weekly basis and not just come and
play on a Saturday. Our close links with the civic means that we see our work in football in much broader ways. We teach our players about respect and making them aware of the important wider issues. We can only try; it is better to try than not try at all!
A!: Why is this non-racialism thing so important to you?
RA: Although we are based in a Coloured community our players come from everywhere. Many young Xhosa speaking learners at the surrounding schools like Oaklands and Groenvlei
come here every Tuesday after school to practice and then go home (often because such facilities do not exist there). Some come from as far as Khayelitsha and Guguletu. This contact is very important for us. This commitment has paid off very well in building our club and has produced some excellent players from diverse communities. It is hard though, and requires going the extra mile.
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