Sixteen-year-old Sibusiso Dlomo’s South Africa feels a world away from the stadiums and hotels hosting teams from around the world.
More than 20 million of the country’s population live on less than $2 a day and rates of unemployment are high. Many in the country’s townships face a daily reality of crime and violence.
For young people, growing up in these impoverished areas, the pressure to become involved in gangs can be immense, but Sibusiso, from Cape Town’s Khayelicha Township, believes that young people can choose a different future.
Millions of South Africans will continue to follow the World Cup games as ardently as the most committed England, Italy or Brazil fan, even after their home team Bafana Bafana are eliminated. Amongst them, Sibusiso hopes that Portugal can go the distance. ‘I would like to go and see one of the games,’ he says. ‘Portugal is my best team in the World Cup - and Portugal can beat Brazil!’
‘I like football because it takes you to places you’ve never gone before. You learn so many skills,’ he says. ‘Football can help teach people not to rob people, not to take drugs, not to do house break-ins. Every day you can go to the field and practice and then on Saturdays go and play a match. It gives you an alternative.’
Sibusiso wants to make sure that other children growing up in the townships also have alternatives to gangs and crime. Christian Aid partner Wola Nani, an organisation supporting people living with HIV and raising awareness about the virus among vulnerable groups, is teaching him how to mentor younger children attending their kids’ clubs.
The clubs are a space for Sibusiso and others to discuss and share knowledge on social issues as well as having fun by playing games like football in a safe environment.
‘Our children are traumatised,’ says Wola Nani founder Greg Berry. ‘In some places violence has become normalised. They don’t get to play. Let them play.’
New approaches to ending poverty
Wola Nani’s approach is typical of the creative and dynamic way young people from South Africa – and indeed across Africa – are tackling some of the continent’s greatest challenges.
Therapeutic weekends help children affected by HIV
An alternative Olympics addresses community conflicts
I-stories allow young Zimbabweans to heal
Infectious music and animations spread the message about malaria