Football is being used as a tool for social change as part Fifa’s legacy for the 2010 World Cup.
Football’s world governing body is setting up dozens of ‘football for hope’ projects across Africa.
Fifa’s Football for Hope centres will teach tens of thousands of disadvantaged children across Africa soccer skills and life skills.
The idea is to use the sport as a way to reach out the continent’s most vulnerable young people and spell out important public health and education messages to them.
In Khayelitsha, near Cape Town, the first project to get funding is already having an effect. The centre is right in the heart of one of South Africa’s poorest townships, and has given it’s the young people something they have never had before – somewhere safe to go after school.
"It’s great because now I know what the World Cup is about," said one girl, who had just been taught to play football for the first time."The gangs rob us and attack us if we hang out on the streets," another girl said. "So this place has really saved my life," she told Sky news.
The township has one of the highest rates of HIV in Africa, and health education runs alongside the football training.
Children at the project are drilled in dribbling a ball through cones while shouting out slogans such as ‘give Aids the red card.’ They learn how to protect themselves by using a condom and avoiding ‘sex with sugar daddies’ – a big problem in South Africa’s townships where older men often target vulnerable young people.
The coaches are trained to teach life skills as well as football, and all come from the township.
"There was a big problem with crime in this area," Katrin Elsemann, one of the project coordinators, said.
"But we haven’t had a single incident of theft or vandalism because the people are protecting the centre," she said.
When the official coaching sessions have finished, the young people from township practice taking penalties on the floodlit pitch.
Along with 19 other football for hope centres across Africa, the Khayelitsha project will get Fifa funding for the next five years.
“The Football for Hope philosophy,” said Fifa “is to maximise the potential of football by making a concrete contribution to sustainable development. Many communities in Africa continue to face serious social challenges. The programmes that are run there, e.g. HIV/Aids awareness, literacy, gender equality, disability and integration, are created to meet the needs of the community.”