Changing lives through Soccer

Categories: Events,Principles,Stories

The Drakenstein Soccer Programme is more than just a sports programme to keep inmates occupied, it’s a valuable tool to begin a process of positive and lasting life changes and reintegration back into society.  This is where we met Shaun. 

Shaun was an active member of a notorious gang before being sentenced and then continued with an equally notorious prison gang inside prison.  He was first sentenced at the age of 22 year and sent to Pollsmoor to serve his sentence.  On nearing the end of it just 2 years ago, Shaun was transferred to the Drakenstein Correctional Centre, and with no rehabilitation and no inclination to change his life path, his primary intentions for going there was to be elevated in the number gang who he served for many years.

On his arrival in the youth facility at Drakenstein, to his surprise, things were very different.  Gang activity was not allowed.  Instead inmates were motivated and rewarded for their good behaviour and positive choices, by access to various privileges.  It was not long when before Shaun progressed to Medium A, giving him access to more privileges including playing soccer.  Since a young boy, he loved Soccer and playing it gave him a sense of freedom and expression to be more than just what he was always labelled as.

Unable to control his anger, on a certain day, Shaun got into a fight and his soccer privileges were immediately revoked.  He began introspecting, questioning his core values and focusing on changing his life. He chose against living the life of a gangster and instead learnt more about becoming a follower of Christ through through the City Mission Discovery Bible Discussions that he participated in.  These Bible discussions are specially selected for young men who are exiting crime and gangsterism. Within 6 months Shaun was moved back into Medium A and his involvement with the City Mission soccer programme and off-site league games could continue. 

On his release, the reality of life outside prison without a strong support base soon sent him back onto drugs.  The challenges of rehabilitation and reintegration for parolees often seem insurmountable, but this component is a vital part of developing healthier, contributing members of society and a much needed step to crime reduction and individuals re-offending. 

Fortunately for Shaun, being able to live in City Mission’s halfway home for ex-offenders, the weekly accountability meetings, the mentoring and support and being able to play in league soccer matches, is changing and transforming his life.   He has been clean since April this year and is excited about the prospects of his new life.  He recently had the opportunity to watch a show at Artscape, which was such a highlight for him and is involved in making and serving sandwiches to indigent out-patients awaiting care at Tygerberg Hospital on a weekly basis. 

The City Mission soccer programmes, the immense value and learning opportunities that the sport brings, the league games, the mentoring and development and the accountability structures, have all played a big role in his ongoing transformation.