As some of you know, in honor of World Cup fever, we’ve been highlighting ways that soccer projects around the world are changing lives.
Last night, Nightline went one better and covered one of those projects in South Africa, providing a great article and video piece on how Academy of Hope in South Africa is helping men in prison re-direct their lives by directing the ball around the soccer field.
As Project Leader Mark Slessenger explains to Nightline, “These guys love football. It’s what they enjoy and soccer is just a way to get the guys out of the gangs. And if a guy loves soccer, he’s willing to leave the gang to come and develop because of his love for the sport.”
The program has a great success rate as well. Of 18 prisoners who have gone through it and been released, the story explains, only two have returned to prison.
Andre Soetwateer participated in the program and was released three months ago, writes Nightline. Working as an electrician, he explains, “It’s very hard, very hard. A lot of friends (are) smoking and using drugs….So for me to come outside out of prison, not doing that, is very hard for me to get in with them and try to communicate with them.”
But, he says, “I’m doing so many good things for people. I’m so happy.”
Nightline explains that Andre is in good company in beating the odds, as the prison he walked out of–where Academy of Hope’s program is based–is the same one that Nelson Mandela walked out of in 1990.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Nightline continues, “And soccer was key to the anti-apartheid struggle. It was a league inside the Robben Island prison, where Mandela spent 18 of his years behind bars, that served as a rallying point for the anti-apartheid movement.”
So, the legacy of soccer as a tool for good continues. Score!
Academy of Hope: Hope To Youth In Prison Through Soccer In Africa
GlobalGiving Soccer Projects Around The World
Nightline story: Soccer Saves: Soccer Team Changes Lives At South African Prison
Lisa Kays is GlobalGiving’s Acting Communications Director. She grew up playing soccer and knows firsthand that it’s a force for good in the world.