Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Finish Strong

As you can see I've been doing the player profiles for the past month or so on the blog, but I thought it was probably time to give an update on the academy as we move into the end of the year. The prison closes over December month as that is the big summer holiday over here in South Africa, so our programme ends in mid November. This means we've got pretty much 2 months left, and we're going to be very busy in the run in. One of the things we always encourage the guys with in training and during the game is to 'finish strong', so if they're doing the last run in fitness or going into the last 5 minutes of the game we just shout out “finish strong!' and they'll run hard until the end. This is an attitude we're trying to apply to the end of this year, and its looks like its going to play out that way with various tournaments, away games, trials and the final awards ceremony in November.

As of last week we've started doing away games at other prisons in the Western Cape. The reason this hasn't occurred until now is down to the prison having to approve it with regional office and the other prisons, but we've finally got the go ahead. We're doing these games for a number of reasons. First, is just to give the guys a chance to get out and have an away game, and also for the guys in the other prisons to have a chance to play a game. Second, is for us to do some scouting of players in other prisons and run trials for applicants for next year's academy. Third, is for us to get the name of the Hope Academy out there and hopefully develop some good relationships with the officials in the other prisons. All in all we have 5 away games planned, two in September (Hawequa – which we have already done, and Pollsmoor), one in October (Bransflei), and two in November (Mossel Bay and Goodwood), so we should hopefully find some good players and develop some useful contacts across the Cape.

So last Wednesday we went to Hawequa prison, which is just 20 minutes from Drakenstein on the outskirts of a small town called Wellington. The prison only deals with medium security juvenile offenders so its quite a small facility, especially the playing field, which is long but very thin and definitely made the game quite congested.We kicked off at around 10am and the game was hectic from the get-go. It was end to end stuff and the Hawequa boys fought really hard and played to their strengths to give us a real tough contest. Our players probably went into the game with a bit too much arrogance and they were almost made to pay when we were 5-3 down with 20 minutes to go, but they showed good character to fight back and win the game 6-5 with a lucky last minute goal. We expected a high scoring game because we were using rugby poles as the goals, but all credit goes to the Hawequa team who showed great mental strength and teamwork throughout despite it being the first time they had played together.

All but a few of our players had poor games, but we can take positives from the fact that we fought hard in the last minutes, and also that we learnt something about our attitude as a team going into the game. Hopefully in the future we will always approach our games with a respect for the opponent and not expecting to win just by turning up. Mr Jonas and I were on the sidelines taking notes on some of the Hawequa players, and we ended up agreeing on 5 of their players as potential academy applicants. Following this up, though, we found that some of these players were due to be released within next few months, so that whittled down the list to about 3 guys. All in all it was a very fruitful day and the officials at Hawequa were very welcoming, so lets hope that the next few prison games are just as productive.

Between now and the end of the year we also potentially have two tournaments to take part in as a team, one in Mossel Bay and one at Drakenstein. The one in Mossel Bay will be at the start of October and will involve 2 teams from our academy (which has meant taking on and training a few more players from other sections to form a B team), a parliament team and a team from Mossel Bay. The tournament at Drakenstein will also be in October and will be between the academy and other sections in the prison as far as I'm aware. This is good news for us as a team, as since we left the league at the start of the year we've just been playing friendly games, so the chance to play for a bit of silverware will be a good motivator and morale booster for the guys.

In terms of our football we have definitely seen improvements in quality in the latter stages of the year, and this is because we've been drilling a certain type of football into the guys in training that centres around nice one-touch football with perfect passing, nice lay offs and good movement off the ball, and they're finally starting to get it and apply it into the games which is encouraging to see. Also the unity and spirit of the team seems to have improved over the past few months, and I think this is partly down to the fact that we've upped the life skills sessions to 3 times a week. We've started a programme called the sports values course, which is an AIS resource and focuses on issues such as losing with dignity, fair play and discipline, and relates it to football and the Bible. We try to make these sessions as thought-provoking as possible and we've really seen the guys starting to open up and challenge themselves on certain issues. So, although there are still a few niggling little problems with unity in the cell, it seems that the guys are all in agreement that the positives in the room are outweighing the negatives.
Coach Dave (above) came in not too long ago and helped us re-enforce our football philosophy with the guys.
Our relationship with the DCS (officials) in the prison has also improved over the last few months. Back in August we had a meeting with the Head of Centre and other heads of departments and officials who are involved in the Hope Academy, and discussed the way forward for the prison academy. It was a very fruitful meeting with the prison committing themselves to taking more ownership of the running of the whole programme. The idea moving forward is to have more of a partnership between the Siyakhula academy (which is the sports section in the prison where our football cell is located) and the Hope Academy, with the hope of naming it the Siyakhula Hope Academy for the start of 2012. This means that all of the sporting codes (rugby, cricket, basketball, martial arts and the band) will adopt the same structure as the Hope Academy with the running of the same life skills (just adapted to their sports) and the same standards, which means having a disciplinary system in the room and all the players having to be in school. Also, the prison officials and offenders will be taking on more responsibility in the academy with the fulfillment of roles such as academy director, head coach and assistant coach, with Ambassadors acting as more of an overseer, which will free up AIS staff to do more community work, family visits and academy graduate follow ups back in Cape Town.

The first step towards this new partnership will be the awards ceremony, which will take place in mid-November and will officially end the academy year. Compared to previous years, and in light of this new direction, the awards day will involve the whole Siyakhula academy and therefore all of the sporting codes, not just football. Me and Bully are both on the organising committee, and we are currently finalising details, but its looking like its promising to be a great day, with key-note speakers, a nice lunch, fancy trophies and also all of the inmates in the section have the chance to invite two family members to enjoy the day with them. The ceremony is a week before I leave back for England, so I'll be sure to take lots of photos and write another blog entry on how the day went.

Apart from that the only other news from the academy is that a few more guys have been released on parole. This month we've had two guys leave, Romano and Mbulelo, both of whom were new academy players this year, so we hope they have learnt something in their short time here, but it has re-enforced the fact to us that when selecting new players we need to know how long they have left on their sentence so that they can preferably complete a whole year with the academy. Also, back in August, Coach Jafta was released, who was one of our more experienced guys, having been in the academy since its inception back in 2008. Jafta lives in a township called Mfuleni near Khayelitsha, and has already been a great help to us by coming with us on family visits to act as a translator. With these three guys, along with Zola and Sehole earlier in the year, and possibly a few more guys by November, this means that by the end of the year our squad will be down to around 18 including coaches, so we will definitely need to sign up a few players from these trails. Otherwise the rest of the academy graduates seem to be doing well (the ones that we are in contact with anyway), with most of them in jobs or actively seeking employment, whilst also helping us do our community work.
Me and Bull with Jafta, his mum and little sister a few days after he was released.
Zola outside his shack in township Samora Machel. Z's has found a bit of work doing water meter readings and has already started working with the youth in his area.
In other more general AIS news, about a month ago we ran a TREC course (Train Resource and Equip Coaches) at a school out in Stellenbosch that trains up international leaders in sports ministry. We were there for three days teaching these guys how to coach kids and run successful soccer clinics, and it was great to meet people from all different nations who are doing similar work to us. Also last weekend we went up to Citrusdal, which is an area about 2 hours north of Cape Town on the Cape Namibia route, to run a fun soccer day in a primary school with about 180 kids! We took along Jafta and Zola who were a great help, and it was good to see them willing to give back to the community and encourage the youth. Naturally the kids absolutely loved it, and after the school work was done we got the chance to relax and stay the night on a plush rural farm which was a nice reward for our days work. We got back on Saturday afternoon just in time to support the launch of a futsal academy run by a former staff member of AIS-SA.We entered a team for the launch day and obviously we smashed it ;). It was winner stays on, and we were on for a run of about 6 games before the heat got the better of us. The hope is that we will enter a Hope academy graduate team so that we can meet with the guys every week and play a bit of futsal with them.
Pics from our weekend in Citrusdal.
Otherwise, the weather in Cape Town is slowly getting hotter and hotter as we move away from winter, which means I'm starting to hit the beaches a bit more often on days off. I did some surfing for the first time the other month as well which was awesome. Four of us guys had a 2 hour begginers lesson and it was quality to get out into the surf. Its quite hard to describe the feeling when you catch a good wave and ride in, but its that moment when you know that you're no longer doing anything yourself and the wave is just smashing you towards the beach...its awesome (see I got the lingo already...gnarly dude). I managed to pop up onto my knees and ride a wave but I didn't get to standing which was quite frustrating. I can time catching a wave quite well, its just popping up quickly enough that I was struggling with. 
For a first timer though I didn't do too bad and now every time I look at waves out on the sea I just wanna get out there. In that same week I also did Table Mountain and Cape Point, both of which were brilliant, so I've definitely ticked off quite a few touristy things now. I also saw a game at the World Cup Stadium last week which is another thing I wanted to do. It was a league game between Ajax Cape Town (who are linked with Ajax Amsterdam) and Kaiser Chiefs (one of the two most popular teams in South Africa, from the Eastern Cape), and although there wasn't a huge crowd (being a Wednesday night) the atmosphere was still great, apart from those bloomin vuvuzelas. As I said Kaiser Chiefs are a very popular team, especially in the townships, so they actually had more fans in the stadium but it was still weird to hear a louder cheer for the Chiefs when they scored even though Ajax were the home team. The only other thing I really want to do before I leave is shark cage diving. I've been raving about it since before I even got here so it'd be a shame if I didn't, but not suprisingly no one seems too keen to come and have a go with me. Its a bit pricey as well, but we'll see, watch this space.
Not a bad view eh? Ontop of Table Mountain looking down on the city.
Also, about a month and a half ago I bought myself a potjie pot (an iron cauldron designed for the braai) from Shoprite for R200 (which is just under £20, a bargain apparently). Since then me and the people I'm living with along with a few friends have pretty much been doing a potjie every weekend. We've done a chicken one, a seafood one, a spicy steak one, another chicken one, a vegetable one, all of them quality, and I'm pretty sure we've got the technique down now. Its pretty simple, you make your fire, get it to embers, stick the pot on, stick the oil in, wait for it to heat up, then chuck the onions and spices in, then the meat, then the harder veggies (like potatoes, carrots), then the stuff that doesn't cook for long (like mushrooms or pasta), always adding water so it doesn't stick to the pot. The key seems to be not to stir the pot, but rather sort of stab it down the sides with the spoon (see told you I'd got the technique down). This is something that I'm definitely taking back with me to England, along with Gatsbys (massive roll filled with chips, egg, onions, tomato, salad, spices and your choice of chicken, steak or sausage) and Bunny Chows (loaf of bread with the inside carved out and filled with curry). Maybe I should set up a "Mikey's Taste of the Cape" when I get'd make a killing!
This was at Cape Point. Me and the guy I was with, Henry, went on a wander and found a beach that was almost untouched, apart from a few ostrich prints. It was like the set of Pirates of the Caribbean or something.
So, yeah, as you can see its going to be a busy end to the year and hopefully it'll roll nicely into next year with the new crop of staff and players. I'll carry on doing the player profiles from now until the end of the year as the boys seem to be enjoying it, and its good for them to send home a good character report to their parents and communities. Then just before I leave I'll do another update to summarise the year and explain what happened in the final couple of months. In the meantime check out the official hope academy blog for some interesting articles at

Surfs up dude!

1 comment:

  1. what an amazing time, and such great work. look forward to a taste of SA food! Bex