22 October 2013
Ben Biko, a former goalkeeper, coaches young soccer players in Philippi to professional level.
He says, “I was told my chances of being a goalkeeper were very low because of my height. But I refused to give up on my dream. I decided to coach and assist the youth in any way I could to help them reach their dreams in soccer.”
Biko played his last match as a goalkeeper in 2003 for the Mother City team. A year later, he started coaching local teams. It was at a tournament in Kensington, where he coached FC Ludidi, which marked a turning point for him.
“A year after the tournament, Ajax Cape Town hired me as a scout for their under-12 team,” says Biko. “Then in 2006, I was goalkeeper coach for Sateni United under the Vodacom League. In 2009, Cape Peninsula University of Technology hired me as a goalkeeper coach for their men’s team, and as head coach for their ladies’ team.”
Biko, who is a technical director of Yizo-Yizo, a soccer team from Sesanti, says coaching and training young boys is not for him about money or recognition; it is about investing in the youth.
Mzwandile Mbodlane, a striker for Kaizer Chiefs, says, “Growing up in a township like Philippi, associating myself with soccer kept me busy and away from drugs and mischief. But that alone couldn’t have brought me where I am today. If it hadn’t been for Ben’s guidance and support along, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Unathi Dumke, a central midfielder for Gaglend United in the Vodacom League, says, “If it wasn’t for soccer I’m sure I would be smoking or doing drugs, because that is what my peers who aren’t playing are doing …. I met Ben when I was 11, and I have been playing ever since. Soccer saved my life.”
Simphiwe Mncando, a striker for Ajax Cape Town, says, “I met Ben when I was 14 and I was playing for FC Ludidi, a team he was coaching. Ajax gave me my big break. He wasn’t just a coach; he was a father to me, kept me away from mischief, and constantly motivated me to work harder and to reach my dream.”
Celeste van der Vent, an executive member of Manenberg Ladies FC, says, “These days schools are not doing enough to promote sport. If we could invest more in sports and the youth with programmes running all year around, then there would be less gangsterism. Full support from the government and private sector to help sustain and grow sports in our communities would transform how our youth think.”
“It began with a dream, and it’s the same dream that is sustaining it”, says Biko.