Football to address fatherlessness in South Africa

by Ambassadors In Sport
Bongani, Chris and Andile leading the children.
Bongani, Chris and Andile leading the children.

Dear supporters,

The past couple of months have been encouraging for us as we continue to reach young men in prison, and mentor our graduates who have been released.

The prison program continues to go well and we have had quite a few of our young men released back into society. This includes our longest serving member Edward who had been in Hope Academy for the past four years. It was an emotional time saying goodbye to Edwards from the program, however we were excited for him as he had been given a place at a halfway home that one of the wardens in the prison runs. Additionally alongside this warden we sought permission from the prison for Edward to return to the prison daily to finish his school in the prison school system. Edward would of struggled to get into another educational system once released and this was a big answer to our prayers. We have visited Edward since his release and it is encouraging to see him flourish.

Another encouragment was when we heard that three of our graduates Chris, Bongani and Andile had set up a nonprofit called 'We've Been There'. This is an initiative they came up with by themselves and we were invited to their launch two weeks ago at a school in one of the townships in Cape Town. It was a special moment to see the three of them speak to 120 children and warn them about the dangers of crime, gangs and drugs. This is a result of one of the things we teach the young men in prison, the importance of using their lives and stories so that children in their communities don't make the same mistakes.

As many of our young men have left prison we have started doing trials in the prison and looking at other players to join the team. The prison we are working will become the U21 juvenile centre in the Western Cape, at the moment we are a centre that takes juveniles from 18-25 but this will change. We are registering in the winter league with an external football association which helps bring motivation to the offenders. We are excited about getting in some new players and impacting their lives and offering them hope.

Thanks for all your continued support to the program.

Awards ceremony with both graduates & prison team.
Awards ceremony with both graduates & prison team.

Dear friends,

A very Happy New Year to you all. Firstly we would like to thank you for all your support to the prison work over 2012. We expierenced some great breakthroughs during the year such as the team being registered and playing in an outside league for the first time and many of our graduates contributing to community projects in Cape Town. 

At the end of the program last year we ran a few events that were significant to the program. Firstly we ran a graduation reunion where 18 of our graduates gathered together and climbed Lions Head Mountain. It was the first time that any of our young men had climbed this Cape Town landmark and illustrated that many underpriveledged youth don't get opportunities to enjoy the beaufiful surroundings in Cape Town. 

The second event we ran was our end of year awards ceremony. This was a fantastic event and we invited 20 of our graduates to attend the event. Awards were handed out for young men in the prison program that had excelled in their football, character and education. The young men in prison then played a match against the prison graduates which ended in a 1:1 draw. It was a great encouragement to see the young men released from prison coming back and offering encouragement and support the young men in the Academy.

One of our young men who left prison and graduated from the program in 2011 was Zola Goboza. Zola was captain of the Academy from 2009-2011 and became a strong leader and role model to the other prisoners. Zola is now working for the local council in one of the townships and says he is using all the skills he learnt as captain in prison to deal with people in his community. This kind of story and example offers so much hope to the young men in prison as they see one young man who used to be in a cell with them making good decisions and a positive life for himself outside.

In 2013 we will continue to support the prison authotiries in running the program as well as supporting the young men who were released from prison. On February the 9th we will be running the "Freedom Run" a 10K run that starts in the prison to celebrate Nelson Mandelas release and walk to freedom. We will be doing this run with some of our graduates to raise awareness for the program, please consider supporting us by making a donation (any amount) and we will give a report in our next newsletter.

Thanks for all your support - we appreciate your partnership in transforming young lives through using football in South Africa.

Unathi and Bongani who helped at our soccer camp.
Unathi and Bongani who helped at our soccer camp.

Dear friends,

Thanks for your support to our work amongst juvenile offenders in South Africa. We continue to be excited about the program and the progress that is being made in the lives of many of the inmates we work with.

This year we made a breakthrough by being able to register the Hope Academy team in a South African Football Association league. I believe this is the first ever prison team in the country to be involved in an external Football Association. This enabled the team to play away games in the community and to also share their stories of change and transformation. The great news is that the team won the league undefeated! We have now been promoted to the promotional league which is very competitive but will be a great platofrm for us to reach outside of the prison and showcase the Hope Academy project.

We are so encouraged by the progress many of our prison graduates are making. Here are a couple of updates on young men who are excelling since being released.

Nkosinathi - Nkosinathi comes from a very poor background in Guguletu township, we were concerned about his welfare when he was released as his mother is an alcoholic and drinks throughout the day. One day he took us to the Shebeen (township bar) where his mother spends most of her time. It was so sad to see a woman so broken and addicted to alcohol. Nkosinathi took us to his house where he is staying with his aunt and to his bedroom where he shares one bed with four cousins. The bed was falling apart and proped up by an old box - he looked at me and said "coach life is better in prison". It was hard for me to give a response. In spite of all of this Nkosinathi was determined to get his life back on track, we spent a good few years with him in prison and preping him for situations like this. Through his determination and perserverance he managed to find employment at a resturant in one of the more affluent suburbs. This was a massive breakthrough as unemployment in the townships can be as high as 85% and then adding a criminal record makes it even harder. We continue to support Nkosinathi and follow him up reguarly.

Simphiwe - Simphiwe was a 28 gang member in prison but turned his life around whilst in the program. Once released he was accepted into a half way home through one of our partners. His community background and environment was terrrible and very dangerous, recently his brother was mugged and shot dead in broad daylight where he lives. Thankfully the opportunity to be out of his environment has given Simphiwe the opportunity to go to college and grow. He recently spoke at an event (see link below) we hosted for an organization in prison. One member of the audience was the MD of Toyota and was so impressed with his story that he invited him to come and share it with all his staff. He also spoke to Simphiwe about offering him a job once he has finished his studies. We are so thankful for what is happening in Simphiwe's life.

Additionally have invited some of our graduates to be involved in our community projects. Last week we had two graduates Unathi and Bongani come and help us coach on a week long soccer camp we ran in Cape Town. These two young men were outstanding and made a big impact on many kids lives. The dream we have is to employ young men like this to help run our community projects in the future. They can become the role models and leaders for the next generation of youth, their stories can make a significant impact on young people's lives.

Over the next month we have a number of events planned for the prison work. Firstly we will be having our end of year graduation for the Hope Academy program. We will also be having a reunion event for all our graduates and plan to climb table mountain. Even though all our graduates live in Cape Town not one of them has climbed the mountain!!

So thanks for your contnued support. We would love you to consider supporting this work further and backing us in this project. We are seeing great breakthroughs but can't continue to do it without your help.


Bonga Mbili
Bonga Mbili

What a busy few months we have had in the prison, we can't believe it is already time for our next report. Thanks for all your support to this program which continues to make a massive difference in the lives of juvenile offenders in Cape Town, South Africa.

We are pleased to announce that the Academy was accepted into a local football association league! This has been a massive breakthrough as we are the first prison football team to now be registered in a community football league. This has been a massive boost for the Academy and for the young offenders in prison and serves as a huge motivation for them. The team has so far played 4 games and won all 4! 

Secondly I labelled the title of this report "in and out of prison" - our staff have been working tirelessly with young men in the prison but also visiting many of our graduates who are now outside. This takes a lot of time and effort as many of the young men come from different parts of Cape Town. However, we see this as being essential as we continue to mentor and support the men once released, the challenges the young men face out of prison are far greater than what they face inside.

One of our young men, Zola Goboza was recently appointed a community worker in the township Samora Machell, this was great news as this young man who has been rehabilitated through the Academy now has the opportunity to impact his community and put into his practice what he learnt through the program.

Zola's story is one of the bright stories (and we have many others) but we also have stories which underline the massive challenges we face in our project. Many projects don't share the real truths about their programs and the challenges but we feel this is important as people like you continue to support us. One of our young men, Jeremy was released back into the community and refused to join his old gang, this resulted in one of the gang members walking up to him one day and shooting in the back of the head, this was in front of his 2 year old son. We attended the funeral and one of our coaches gave testimony to Jeremy's time in prison. It is so sad that this young man died for making the right choice.

Another one of our other graduates Bonga was also shot dead in Cape Town one evening, Bonga was also a father to his two year old son and was making an effort to change, he was working and supporting his child. These deaths just continue to contribute to the fatherless generation we face in South Africa. You can read a blog I wrote about Bonga below on the link.

Another young man called Precious was released this year after he contracted XDR-TB, XDR-TB is a terminal form of TB and it is unlikely he will recover, he has been in hospital and vomiting up blood, we hope to be able to provide private care for him as it seems Corrections and the government are providing no adequate care for this young man.

These young men often need people advocating for them, they have messed up in life but statistics show that 95% of them have never had a positive father figure in their lives. This shows the important role sport can play as our coaches become the father figures and mentors to many of these young men.

In the coming months we hope to sit with Correctional Services and really secure our program and partnership moving forwards. There is so much work to be done but we need further support.


Jeremy - who sadly leaves behind a 2 year old son
Jeremy - who sadly leaves behind a 2 year old son

Dear Friends,

We would like to update you on some exciting developments regarding our prison Hope Academy program. 

These past few months have been extremely busy for the project as we have continued to work tremendously hard with the young offenders in the prison and our graduates outside of prison.

Currently we have had 32 graduates come through the Hope Academy. It is exciting to see many of these young men leave prison and become role models and leaders in their communities. 

Recently our captain in the Academy from 2009-2011 Zola Goboza was employed in one of the Cape Town townships as a full time community worker. When Zola was released from prison he volunteered his services for free to the local council, over time the community center saw his commitment and rewarded him with a full time position last week.

One of our graduates, Abongile Sodlaka phoned me to say he had just passed his Electrical Engineering Level 3 theory course. We funded Abongile to go through this course and he has shown great determination to pass. He will be setting up his own business in the future.

However we do have some sad news that one of our graduates was shot dead in the Cape Flats a few weeks ago. Jeremy made a decision to leave the gang he was working with before prison when he was released, sadly the gang killed him on his doorstep in front of his two year old son. Jeremy lost his life for standing up for the right thing. One of our coaches attended the funeral and spoke on behalf of Hope Academy and gave a testimony about Jeremy's life. This is the realty of the work we do.

This past month we had the minister of Correctional Services visit the Academy, she said that the Academy holding cell (where the team lives) was the "best cell I have ever seen in any prison in the country" - her comment was in appreciation for the discipline of the young men, the cleanliness of the cell and the project. We also received a delegation from all the managers of prisons nationwide who visited the Academy with the concept to open up Academies in their prisons. This will be a difficult task as the Academy is not something that can easily be replicated.

Finally the Academy has been accepted into an external football association league. This is a huge breakthrough as the team will be playing matches home and away against community teams. This will not only create awareness of the project but will also allow us to play competitive football on a weekly basis.

Thanks for all your support and if you want to continue to support us by giving to the project please consider this. We still need funding for equipment this year such as boots, shirts and playing kit.

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Organization Information

Ambassadors In Sport

Location: Pretoria, South Africa - South Africa
Website: http:/​/​
Ambassadors In Sport
Project Leader:
Ben Marais
AIS SA Director
Pretoria, Gauteng South Africa

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