GotSoccer is helping to fund the Berea-Albion Football Development Project in South Africa.
Born out of the legacy of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Berea-Albion was created when the South African Football Association (SAFA) launched a national program of grassroots soccer that primarily focused on school soccer.
The main aim of academy is to help give children the opportunity to learn and develop skills that will benefit them both on and off the field. Most who attend Berea Albion, which is a residential program, come from disadvantaged and difficult backgrounds that include poverty, single parent households, alcoholism, physical and emotional abuse, as well as marginalized language communities that lack educational resources.
Situated in a rural area 35 miles from Pretoria, Berea-Albion first came to the attention of GotSoccer CEO Gavin Owen-Thomas a couple of years ago during a trip to South Africa, and the project immediately struck a chord with him. It reminded him of a similar project he was involved in as a child.
Born in Namibia, Owen-Thomas grew up playing soccer in apartheid South Africa. When his father, a career policeman, was transferred to a small town where the sport was not played by locals, Gavin, then 13 years old and against all odds, took the matter into his own hands and started a club – the Kroonstad Football Team. He and his fellow young players ignored the law to bicycle into the townships to play barefoot against their young Xhosa counterparts.
Two-years ago Owen-Thomas returned to South Africa for a family wedding. While there he was asked to meet with a man and woman who persuaded him to visit an academy they had created in a rural area close to the bush. There he saw the same drive and passion that had helped create the Kroonstad Football Team.
The man at the heart of Berea-Albion is Steve Haupt, a former player who started his career at the tender age of 15, playing at clubs both in South Africa and abroad. Coaching since 1984, Steve has been involved with top South African clubs such as Ajax Cape Town. Together with former Manchester United and England goalkeeper Gary Bailey, he was responsible for the birth of the youth development structures at the University of Pretoria. As well as coaching, Steve has also uncovered a host of talented players in South Africa, including former Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and South African captain Steven Pienaar.
“The Kroonstad Football Team taught me some of my greatest lessons in life, but above all it gave me the opportunity to hope and dream. The BAFD is giving young children, many from disadvantaged and difficult backgrounds that same opportunity,” said Owen Thomas.
“That passion that I grew on the field in Kroonstad still burns today, and hopefully Steve and Berea-Albion will instill that same drive and passion into kids.”
GotSoccer has funded the building of a gymnasium and provided money for Berea Albion to complete the classrooms at the residential academy. In addition, GotSoccer is shipping a flood and drain seedling propagation system with 8 vertical columns 10’ tall which will allow the academy to grow over 1,200 vegetable plants every three weeks year-round. The pods require no soil and will allow the academy not only to feed their students but also raise cash by selling kale, lettuce, arugula, tomatoes and other vegetables to local restaurants and other outlets.