Sihle, a 12-year-old boy, is a Grassroot Soccer participant from Khayelitsha, South Africa. Sihle feels strongly about the problems in his community. While he first became involved in Grassroot Soccer SKILLZ programming because of his love and talent for soccer, he now feels a strong connection to Grassroot Soccer, the Caring Coaches and the Khayelitsha site coordinator. He appreciates the respect they show him and the things they have taught him about living a strong and healthy life. He’s also demonstrated respect for girls and women, and likes to play soccer against RV United, the local women’s team. Sihle wants to become a Grassroot Soccer Caring Coach one day, and when he gets older he would like to become a doctor.
We interviewed Sihle in December 2014 about his life and his experience with Grassroot Soccer; here are his perspectives, in his own words.
On what he’s learned through Grassroot Soccer:
The first game we played is I’m a Baller. They teach that you mustn’t have sex without a condom, and if someone has blood you should only touch it with gloves, otherwise you can get HIV. I also learnt that I shouldn’t do drugs, or smoke or drink alcohol. All those things.
On healthy choices:
Some people have girlfriends, some children who are underage…I don’t want it now, a girlfriend. I want it when I am 18, 19, 21. I am learning these good things at Grassroot Soccer. When you don’t drink, and you keep your mind strong and safe, the criminals don’t bother you. I just watch those gangsters, and I tell them to stop doing the things they do. I tell them, “These things cause you a lot of problems.”
On the role of the Football for Hope Centre and how he views girls’ soccer:
I live only 1-2 minutes from the [FFH] Centre. Very close to my home is this safe space. [My friends] like the Centre, and they like seeing that girls can play soccer too. If you play tournaments here in Khayelitsha, all the people will come. They like to have fun, listen to DJs, eat some food, and then they can also learn about HIV, not drinking, and being nice to girls. Boys mustn’t hit girls. And I am interested to see girls play soccer here too, I like watching RV United play sometimes. Sometimes they beat me in soccer, but I am a good player.
On how his family is involved:
I have a brother; his name is Lelo. He’s 21 years old and he likes to play soccer too. Sometimes he comes here to Grassroot Soccer and speaks to the coaches. My mom is at home all the time, and sometimes she comes to watch how I play soccer… she is proud of me a lot. [My dad] says I am good at soccer, and when I come to Grassroot Soccer every time he comes with me. Sometimes he talks to me about HIV, when we have dinner or breakfast he tells me what I should and shouldn’t do, what is right and wrong. My mom tells me about girls and how to respect girls, elders and brothers…My dad plays soccer too…he’s really good, and he started teaching me when I was 6 years old.
On his goals for the future:
I want to keep my talent up in soccer, and I want to keep coming to Grassroot Soccer. I want to be a coach someday, because the coaches here respect me. They know me. They also get a lot of respect from people in the community… We have good role models here.I want to be a doctor when I get older…When people are sick they can come to the hospital, and I can help them. When people get sick from HIV they hide it a lot. I don’t know why they hide it. HIV is affecting people, a lot of people in this area.
Original interview conducted by Jenn Warren; edited here for length.