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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, has
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
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
Ajax Amsterdam owns 51%
of the Cape Town club, and gave its full support to the club’s decision to
start focusing on the community with financial backing and its professional
European coaching techniques and training. The European powerhouse has 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 gangsterism. Football is being used as a powerful tool which can help to
invoke change in some of the most crime-ridden 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.
One of the notable
programmes includes Kick ‘n Learn, which combines social upliftment and the
physical benefits of playing football. The programme is based in Primary
Schools around the Cape Town area and gives thirty 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.
When the Community
Scheme was introduced, Ajax Cape Town was one of the pioneering clubs in South
Africa to pursue a social development programme.Its focus on giving back to the
community and on the club’s philosophy of youth development.
Ajax Amsterdam not
only offers financial support but also helps in terms of training coaches in
compliance with the 'Total Football' tradition. The Dutch club is responsible
for the scheme’s continued presence and social development ethic.
Riyaad Khan, the
Community Scheme Administrator, praised Ajax Amsterdam’s support of the various
“When we established the
community scheme they [Ajax Amsterdam] obviously supported us in the decision
to start up a full-time community programme,” Khan told Goal.com.
gives us their support and they assist us in terms of the coaching and the
training of the coaches.
offers direct involvement with the Street Sweep programme which combines
coaching and life orientation for street kids in conjunction with the local
police. The parent clubs funds all the food for the programme.
Ajax Cape Town has
also worked with exclusive charities such as the Happy Africa Foundation, when
the club sponsored a party for the entire Redhill community, preparing food for
its one thousand residents and handing football equipment and gifts to
Leonara Reid, a
member of Charity Development at the Happy Africa Foundation spoke to Goal.com
about the success of Ajax’s programmes in conjunction with the charity. Reid
has also worked extensively with Ajax Cape Town in terms of the various other
programmes the club offers.
“It has been a
great relationship with us so far. Ajax has done really well in terms of its
social development.The life skills and the street kids programme was
incredible,” Reid said.
programmes really work.Redhill is a small community which not many people know
about and Ajax did a great job there.”
believes that Ajax Cape Town's efforts are a vital tool in the overall role of
the football club and that the 2010 World Cup has lead to more exposure for the
“If you don’t give
back to the community, then what’s the point of having a football club?” Khan
“At the end of the
day the World Cup has led to more exposure, as more people are aware of the
work we are doing, but there has been no more sponsorship.
“We’re not doing
the community scheme for money. We’re doing it to make a positive difference in
the lives of the youths of Cape Town.
“We’re trying to
ensure that these kids have a future, whether it be in soccer, whether it be as
a doctor, a photographer or a media person it doesn’t matter. We are trying to
give these kids positive role models through Ajax Cape Town and through