Alexandra Football Academy, Alexandra, Gauteng

Shakes Kungoane had a dream…

High levels of unemployment and poor social infrastructure characterise the Alexandra township in Gauteng. As a result, crime, HIV and AIDS, drug and alcohol abuse and poverty confront the community on a daily basis. Alexandra also has a serious lack of facilities and infrastructure and the youth in the area have few constructive diversions to occupy their time.

In 2002, ex-Bafana Bafana soccer star Isaac “Shakes” Kungoane founded a football academy in the heart of Alexandra, in an effort to give something back to his community. Then known as the Shakes Football Academy, its aim was to draw in these impoverished children and assist them in working towards their dreams via soccer. The academy was the realisation of a lifelong vision for Shakes, but by 2005, with only two soccer balls to share between nearly 60 underprivileged children, the academy was in dire need of assistance.

Given his legendary soccer-hero status, Shakes is viewed as a role model by the youth in Alexandra and, as a result, his academy possesses the necessary credibility to attract youngsters to the programme. All he needed was some financial support to bring his dream to fruition. He submitted a sponsorship proposal to Discovery in December 2005, and through the personal intervention of key managers at Discovery, his proposal reached the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation who have been supporting the project ever since.

Growth since the Laureus Foundation came on board

The Academy was initially launched with 56 boys in the under-14 to under-17 age groups, and has now expanded to 120 boys and 30 girls, starting from under six. There is a growing demand from children in the community to join the Academy, but this will require additional coaches and financial resources are limited. Currently the Academy employs five coaches and one administrator. The Academy would also like to find extra funding to field teams in the local football leagues in Johannesburg across all age groups.

The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation is providing financial support to help with these growth plans and has drawn attention to the work of the Alexandra Football Academy with high profile visits by sportsmen and women. In May 2006, Edwin Moses, Chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, and his fellow Academy member Morné du Plessis, Chairman of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation Trust South Africa, visited Alexandra to take part in sports coaching workshops. They brought with them track legend Frankie Fredericks, a member of the Laureus Friends & Ambassadors programme, and South Africa’s wheelchair racing star and winner of the 2006 Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability, Ernst van Dyk.

Sustainable development for the future

The Alexandra Football Academy aims to draw impoverished children from Alexandra and offers them facilities to play football under expert coaching from ex-Bafana Bafana star Isaac ‘Shakes’ Kungoane. The Academy’s vision is to assist young people to make the most of their talent and to develop their playing skills.

As a by-product of its football coaching programme, the Academy seeks to make other important contributions to improve the lives of participants by offering them life skills and HIV and AIDS counselling, nutrition and dietary advice and eventually, it is hoped, employment opportunities. Under guidance from the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, Academy staff members have received training to incorporate life skills education in their coaching sessions.

This has elevated the Academy from its status as a mere sports development facility to that of a social upliftment centre, using sport as a vehicle for transformation to address social issues that affect the community in a structured way.