Manenberg’s Women Footballers Survive Hood Life To Win Cape Town Football Title By Cheryl Roberts

16 Nov

There were many days when they couldn’t turn up for football training in their gang-rivalry hood of Manenberg, but Manenberg Ladies football team stood united, found the gaps to train and stayed in the game they love.

Playing in the regional women’s football league of the SAFA Cape Town region, Manenberg ladies football team are the 2016 league champions; this being the first time in their five year existence they have won the league.

It hasn’t been an easy and comfortable journey for the young women and girl footballers who make up this champion team belonging to the club founded by volunteer community sports officials Dawood Salie and Celeste van der Vent.

Over the past two years especially, the team had their training and league preparations interrupted and delayed because of rival gang violence’s stranglehold on Manenberg. Parents wouldn’t allow their children to walk to the football training ground as bullets and guns dominated the street.

One of the players even became a victim of gun shots. Some players got caught in the gun shot battles as they walked their way to the football field. While other regional league teams and their opponents got going with pre-season training, Manenberg Ladies football team players prayed for the gun and gang battles to stop so they could go to football training.

Living in council housing in the disadvantaged, unemployed, under-resourced working class and gang fighting neighbourhood of Manenberg on the Cape Flats, the club was founded and came into existence to give the ‘girls an opportunity to play sport’, says official Dawood Salie.

‘At first, we didn’t play to win titles, just to survive. We had to get football boots for the players and shin guards, pay their medical examination costs and transport to games. With most of our players coming out of unemployed and struggling families, sport was a luxury they couldn’t afford. But as a community club, we made it a reality.’

Manenber Ladies football team is a team of working class girl and young women footballers. Some of the girl players are at school in Manenberg, some are young mothers, some are unemployed, some are working. They are united by their lives in Manenberg and their love for football.

It’s through football, particularly on the football field, that the girl and women footballers find their expression as sportswomen because it’s out on the field where they discover their creativity and potential. When they leave the football field, they know their worth as girls and women in sport.

They can’t afford the latest and most expensive football boots, or branded sports clothing, but they play as proud working class women in sport because no one can take away their confidence found through football.

Several of the team players have already represented SAFA Cape Town in provincial events and SAFA Western Cape in inter-provincial competitions. They have also clinched national awards such as ‘top goal-scorer’. However, it’s disappointing to note how Manenberg’s players are overlooked for national youth selection when the players have proven their football prowess in national competition.

Club officials, Dawood, Celeste and aunty Rose (who coaches the under 13 team) have used their personal money and time to develop and grow the club. When the player’s need boots and shin guards, they bought this from their personal money, expressing the epitome of community and grassroots sport.

With so much negatives characterizing the community and its families, the primary objective was to provide as safe space for the girls and young women to play sport and enjoy being in sport.

‘Winning the league and becoming champions was just a dream,’ says Dawood Salie. “When we formed the club, we had nothing, just the players who wanted to play. But we kept building the team, supporting the players, ensuring they played football. And the players responded by coming to training and wining matches. Our winning the league this year is good for the team’s confidence. At least, the players from Manenberg know they can win at sport’.

The young mothers are encouraged to stay in the game, not to be out of sport because they have children. They come to the field with their child or children. Supporters and others connected with the team look after the children while the mothers are playing. ‘It’s like a family affair. We support each other and are there to help each other. When we win, it’s a team effort,’ says Dawood Salie.

Off the football field, the players are with their families, at work or school. They like music and being active on social media and with their mobile phones. Football is their love; it’s the sport they’ve come to not only love, but to also know themselves better and what they can achieve.img_0827

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