‘Language of football’ speaks volumes for Cape kids
Successful tour by township team to Sweden thanks to mentor George Frett and charity the Kusasa Project
George Frett made no fewer than 50 trips to the Department of Home Affairs to help a team from a Western Cape township realise a dream to participate in the world’s largest youth football tournament.
“They all needed unabridged birth certificates, which are so difficult to get when some have got no parents,” Frett said earlier this year as the team prepared for their trip. “A number of the kids don’t have dads in the picture and there were missing court orders.”
His hard work paid off.
The Kusasa Stars, a group of 19 boys between the ages of 12 and 14, arrived in Gothenburg, Sweden, in mid-July to participate in the Gothia Cup.“We were blown away by the whole experience,” said Frett, a retired police officer from the UK who has moved to the Winelands and taken an interest in the community and who helped organise the tour.
“The boys were undertaking so much. It was their first time getting in an elevator, let alone a plane across the world,” he said. “One of the highlights was observing their interaction with locals. You could see them getting more and more confident speaking with people from all over the world.”
A far cry from their local field scattered with litter, where spectators include cows and stray dogs, their coach Rasta Xulu said he was initially concerned about their game. However they walked away with their heads held high, having scored 12 goals and winning two of their three group matches to secure six points. They were ultimately knocked out in the 64th round of the tournament.
“I won’t lie, we were worried that we wouldn’t cope with the quality of play,” said Xulu. “But after the first game we saw ‘hey, we can keep up here’ even though our boys lacked the physical presence of some of the other teams. We saw that we have other skills, better ball control, so we could compete and then there was no pressure on us.”The tournament was ultimately won by a Ghanaian team, adding to the success of the tournament for African youngsters.
Coach Dumisa Molose said exiting the tournament afforded them the opportunity to enjoy the last few days of the trip.
“We could relax and entertain the rest of the tournament with our singing and dancing,” he said. “Everyone loved the boys. We got so much community support even after we were knocked out.”
Kamva Mgidlana, the 12-year-old captain of the football team from Groendal, told Times Select: “It was so much fun and we learnt many new things. We were happy all the time we were there and the people of Sweden took us into their homes.
“I saw that the world is so much bigger than I thought, and we have so much more hope now.”The tour was sponsored by various investors thanks to lobbying by members of the Kusasa Project, a charity that helps with early childhood development.
Started in 2006, Kusasa (Xhosa for “tomorrow” or “future”) has influenced the development of community infrastructure and played a positive role in the lives of hundreds of children.
They plan to continue this tour for the next two years as part of a three-year project, with a girls’ team joining them in the third year. The children’s participation in the tour will ultimately depend on their performance in school, with Frett hoping that “dangling the carrot” will incentivise their hard work off the pitch.
“We have come back with more passion than ever before,” said Xulu. “We learnt how to have more hope, we embraced cultures from all over the world and participated in the world’s language of football.”