On the outskirts of Cape Town, the township of Khayelitsha is ushering in a new dawn for the youth of the township and slowly breeding new South African leaders. About 12 months ago, a new chapter was written in this process when the inaugural Football for Hope Centre opened in the area.

The programmes at the Khayelitsha Football for Hope Centre have brought both entertainment and education to the locals. This was the beginning of an initiative by FIFA to build ‘20 Centres for Hope’ across the African continent as part of a legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and FIFA’s commitment to ensure that the rest of the African continent benefits from the hosting of the tournament. Every day, members of the community of Khayelitsha visit the centre for a number of reasons – from enjoying a football game to HIV testing and other activities. The centre has caught the attention of international football stars and celebrities, and this year, music legend Elton John even celebrated his birthday at the centre.

The Khayelitsha Football for Hope Centre has had many success stories to date, most of which have a direct impact on the local community. Since its inception, it has become a hub for the local youth, and the majority of the coaches at the Khayelitsha Football for Hope Centre come from within the township.

Local youth buoyed
Tsokolo 'Lucky' Moahloli is a Khayelitsha resident and the founder and co-ordinator of Utshintsho ('Transformation'), a Grassroot Soccer programme that provides a place for graduates of Grassroot Soccer's Skillz Curriculum to delve further into the discussions they had during the sessions. The 21-year-old started working with Grassroot in June of 2009.

We knew there were kids facing social challenges and we wanted to create a space for them to discuss these challenges.

Tsokolo 'Lucky' Moahloli is a Khayelitsha resident and the founder of Utshintsho

He had been looking for an organisation that was helping teach people about HIV/AIDS because the disease had affected him personally. "When a close friend of mine was diagnosed with HIV, I decided that I wanted to do something that would help others people living with the HIV virus, and the centre has afforded me an opportunity to do just that,” he explained. "We knew there were kids facing social challenges and we wanted to create a space for them to discuss these challenges. In the beginning, I did all of the talking, but they are now teaching one another, taking leadership. They are also taking initiative through community outreach opportunities.”

For the young people of Khayelitsha, the last 12 months have been eye-opening – both in terms of possibilities and also information provided. One of the participants is Leiato, who gave a raving testimonial of what she has learnt from the centre. "It allows us to not engage ourselves in drug use and other bad activities,” said Leiato. “The centre helps us build our communities in Harare and Khayelitsha. It especially gives us access and ownership to things we don't have, like the soccer field."

Another participant, Vuyolwethu, added: "The centre gives me a platform to affect the lives of children and community members of Khayelitsha. I love to see the joy of kids involved with the Football for Hope Centre’s community league." Another supporter named Gcina stressed the local importance of the project: "I enjoy working at the centre because it allows me to make a positive impact on my community and my peers in Khayelitsha. This is where I am from, this is where I need to be."

Hub of activities
Outside of football, there are number of activities that take place at the centre. They include HIV testing and counselling, the community league and the Preschool programme, to name just a few. The Community League is effective because it uses football to reach the community directly. So far, Grassroot Soccer has been successful in linking the Community League with its HIV Counselling and Testing, ensuring that participants get tested and know their status.

The Preschool Programme is a partnership with three preschools in the area. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the children come to the centre for 90 minutes of singing, dancing and football. They sometimes also move inside to play board games, colour or watch an educational movie.