Soccer project needs support

The Football Feeding programme runs in Pelican Park and Steenberg.

Every Wednesday and Friday, a Pelican Park man ferries dozens of children, in his tiny car, from their homes to the Pelican Park sports field for soccer coaching.

Lee Kleinsmith, a coach by profession, says he has seen the good sport can do for children, so he started Feeding Football, a non-profit company, eight months ago to give food and soccer training to youngsters who would otherwise spend their time playing street soccer or getting up to mischief.

The programme started with seven children, but scores more have been joining since then and the coaching is now also happening on a field near the Steenberg railway station, although Mr Kleinsmith says a lack of sponsorship means he has to borrow balls and other sports gear and he hasn’t been able to provide any meals.

Zhuan Phillips and Ayden Fellis practise as coach Lee Kleinsmith looks on.

“We would like to be well established with the proper equipment to help upskill trainees as well as have sufficient food supplies to ensure that each trainee is fed before and after every training session.”

It had been hard juggling his work and the programme and scraping money together to feed the children, he said.

“We have no resources, unfortunately, but we are trying our best to offer what we can, which is time, knowledge and to teach them discipline and teamwork.

“These children haven’t been introduced to the basic soccer skills because they always just play in their road and they don’t belong to clubs. My aim is to teach them and hopefully get them good enough to join clubs and keep them off the streets.”

Ryan Andrews, 14, has been taking part in the programme for six months. “I really like being here, and I’ve been taught so much about soccer. It’s such a benefit for us, especially those of us, like myself, who have dreams of becoming professional soccer players.”

Ashleen Samson and Maccine Hartzenberg take part in the programme every week.

Wasief Adams, 12, joined the programme as an alternative to street soccer. “I trained myself before and played soccer in the street with other children, but this is helping me better my soccer training because I’m learning such a lot.”

Mr Kleinsmith hopes to get sponsorship and start a daily programme at the Pelican Park sports field, where he has applied to use the hall. “At the moment, we have no ablution facilities and no access to water but the water that I bring which makes it difficult.”

He said he was waiting to hear from ward councillor Gerry Gordon on whether he could use the hall and rely on her for some assistance.

Ms Gordon acknowledged his requests and said the sub-council was collecting all the information sent by organisations requesting help.

“We are in the process of compiling organisations for our committees; this is being prioritised to get them on the database,” she said.

“The organisation is doing wonderful things. I think it is very important for council to support all sporting codes because many of the youth move towards or are drawn in by sport, which is a better alternative than being on the streets and gangsterism. I’m glad there are young individuals like Lee out there who are doing programmes like this for our children.”

For more information about the programme or to assist Mr Kleinsmith with soccer balls, equipment or food, contact him at 072 744 5950.

Lee Kleinsmith is running a soccer-coaching programme in Pelican Park.