From the humble streets of Railton to the World Stage

How street soccer changed the lives of three young players in Swellendam -.

This amazing story starts early 2017, where Alpha Fransman, Head of the Railton Foundation in Swellendam saw a street soccer tournament in neighboring Bredasdorp hosted by OASIS, a registered non-profit organisation in Cape Town.  OASIS has many sports programmes through which they teach disadvantaged young South Africans how to overcome challenges, all with a view to assisting them in making intelligent choices for a better future.   

Alpha realised the value and potential to introduce a similar programme in Swellendam, and after initial discussion with Clifford Martinus, Director at OASIS, Railton Foundation invited OASIS to host a 4-a-side Street Soccer Tournament at the Thusong Community Hall in Railton.  At this stage the team at Railton Foundation did not know that OASIS was actually using the tournament to scout for new talent to be included in the South African Homeless World Cup squad for 2017. 

A list of potential players was identified, including the names of Aviwe Ganyathi and Rudi Pietersen, and they were invited to Cape Town (Philippi) to participate in trials.  Aviwe made it through and was included into the SA squad of 8 to represent South Africa in the 2017 Homeless World Cup in Oslo, Norway.  

A fruitful partnership formed between Railton Foundation and OASIS, both like-minded organisations that use  sport activities as a drive for social change in order to assist the unemployed youth, the vulnerable and youth at risk, and resulted in the Foundation forming a partnership with OASIS to host 4-a-side Soccer Tournaments in Swellendam.  Every year the Foundation sends through a team of potential players to participate in the Homeless World Cup trials.  Following in Aviwe’s footsteps, Rudi was selected for the 2018 SA Squad for the games in Mexico, and Swellendam’s latest soccer star to represent South Africa in 2019 in Cardiff, Whales, is Yandisa Nomadluka

Railton Foundation offers soccer as a sports development programme at VRT Pitt Primary School, as well as for youth outside of the school.  Most of the participants are unemployed, like Aviwe, Rudi, and Yandisa.  They do however play in established soccer teams in Swellendam.  4-a-side Soccer is a quick, fast paced version of the game, and Railton Foundation uses this format to keep Railton kids busy through constructive and upbeat game play and activities, and of course the opportunity to one day participate in trials and become soccer stars in their own right – just like our World Cup heroes. 

Upon his return a highly motivated Aviwe joined Railton Foundation as volunteer to assist with their sportsdevelopment activities and programs.  According to Alpha Fransman, he is doing a remarkable job:  “Aviwe has shown incredible growth in his personal life and we are very proud of the man he has become.  After his World Cup experience Rudi also joined the Foundation to assist Aviwe and he is slowly coming into his own right.  They both show great initiative and find value in working within structured programs.  Yandisa has just arrived back from Cardiff and will be joining hands with Aviwe and Rudi to share their experiences with the children of Railton”

What did the three young men take from their experience, apart from seeing world cities, meeting new friends and watching great soccer players do their magic on a world stage?  

Yandisa is thankful for the passionate team at Railton Foundation.  “They planted a seed through which I could see a way forward and make my dream come true.  I want to give back to my community and also give others the same opportunity that I had.  I can’t wait to join Railton Foundation and be part of the team.” 

Says Rudi: “Do not be blinded by your circumstances.  Strive to better yourself and through hard work you will succeed.  Do things that motivate you to do better.”  

Aviwe concurred: “The Homeless World Cup is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Although you cannot change your past, you have a choice to change your future.  I came back and decided to make a difference in the lives of the youth in Railton“. 

All three is adamant: “Swellendam has incredible soccer talent, which we really need to develop and take further.”   

As is the case with our three champions, a common thread stands out from the many testimonies from players all over the world – The Homeless World Cup is much more than a game.  Al players, participants, spectators and even organisers are touched by the impact the game has on their lives, and in Swellendam our 3 young stars have first-hand experience of life changes in being part of something much bigger than anything they have ever been exposed to. 

Despite initially failing to make the squad in 2017, Rudi was so motivated by Aviwe’s achievement and experience, that he again tried out in 2018, and was included in the 2018 SA Squad.  Yandisa had a dream from his childhood days to one day go overseas.  Aviwe and Rudi’s achievement planted a seed and moved him to participate and work hard to realise his dream.  He firmly believed that, if they can do it, so can he. 

The Homeless World Cup –
football tournament with a heart

The Homeless World Cup is much more than a game.  Al players, participants, spectators and even organisers are touched by the impact the game has on their lives, and in Swellendam our 3 young stars have first-hand experience of life changes in being part of something much bigger than anything they have ever been exposed to. 

As mentioned, the trials and the election process for the South African Homeless Soccer Team are managed by OASIS, who also appoint the Coach and Assistant Coach for the squad of 8, and assist with all logistical arrangements.  The 2019 team consisted of 3 players from Cape Town, as well as one each from Johannesburg, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and our home boy and star, Yandisa from Swellendam.  Team SA lost in the Quarter Finals and ended the World Cup 7th out of 64 countries. 

In a South African context, the Homeless Cup Foundation focus on creating developmental opportunities for young men and women living on the streets, or those who live in very difficult circumstances within informal settlements.  The goal is to give opportunities to those less fortunate, with an emphasis on working out an exit plan out of their circumstances.  Rudi explains: “To participate does not only mean you have to be homeless or living on the streets.  It is a programme for anyone who grew up struggling and is currently unemployed.  You must however be drug free.” 

Mihaela Anton, Romanian women side:  “Every one of us has come with their own baggage and everybody has their own story”.  “Nothing lasts forever.  I might be in a bad place now, but I won’t be in a bad place forever. You can only look up”  Jordan, The Wallish.  

I just want to change my life”  Nurdin “Kate” Supriyada, Indonesia.  

This is such an awesome opportunity, to meet the whole world in one place. I feel that I stand again in society and I feel more human again—not a lonely wolf or a black sheep.”  35-year-old Dennis Koopmans from Hardenwyk, Netherlands

When we are singing as a team, we forget everything.  Whatever you are doing as a young person, make sure that it brings you a step closer to what you want.”  Sibusiso Dyantyi, South African Team.] 

Almost 500 players from 64 nations competed in the Welsh capital in a football tournament unlike any other.  2019 was the 17th edition of the Homeless World Cup, created to harness the power of sport in transforming the lives of people experiencing homelessness and social exclusion.  Organisors advise that over one million people worldwide have had their lives positively impacted by the tournament and its programmes since the first tournament in Graz, Austria in 2003. 

Michael Sheen, well known Welsh actor and main driver behind the 2019 Whales tournament, said: “It is a sporting spectacle that is quite unlike any other. It is of course a football tournament, but it is one that is far more than simply a game. It changes lives for the better. I have seen it happen and it is my fervent hope that this year’s tournament has provided many more opportunities for its transformative effects to be experienced by those who need it most long after the final whistle has blown.” 

Homeless World Cup co-founder and president Mel Young explains that Homelessness is not one individual thing. It’s about the pressure people experience in their lives.  “It is essential that the voices of the people at the forefront of this—the homeless and those at the sharp end—that these are the voices which are heard.  The players are the heroes. They are the ambassadors for people who are back in their own country in the same position.  If we all work together, do a little bit and build together, we will create a world where there’s no homelessness at all”. 

2020 Homeless World Cup is scheduled to take place in Tampere, Finland, and, if Rudi’s prediction comes true, South Africa may have a good chance to host the Homeless World Cup festival in 2022. 


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