"I have never given up and I never will. Hopefully some of the kids here who read this story and are experiencing challenges in their lives will be motivated in some way to do the same."

I’ve become very close with Milo over the last year and a bit sharing these rides, battling
each other on the chess board, talking about life. And while he is quiet in nature, his
story is one that screams out hope.

I Have Never Given Up And I Never Will!

 

It’s a Tuesday night around 6:45pm. I turn into Hangberg, where the coloured fishing
community of Hout Bay reside. The streets are narrow, made even narrower by old
broken boats that have been dumped on pavements alongside cars that look like they
haven’t been started in 20 years. I do my best to avoid them as well as the numerous
potholes that the local council seem to have turned a blind eye to. On these black
pockmarked streets young boys are playing football with older boys. Street rules are
clearly in play as I witness one of the smaller boys launched to the floor. Laughter rings
out as young girls playing catch in the concrete park screech out, their joy seems out of
place to me. A couple of straggly looking dogs are searching through refuse to try and
find a meal, their desperate dark eyes seem more fitting in this picture. 

I pull up to Emile’s house and he is already waiting. Always neatly dressed in his Hout Bay United FC tracksuit, he jumps in. “Evening coach.” “Howzit Milo! How you? How’s football?”
The same conversation every week as we head towards “The Dream Factory” to run a
Chess Club, we started up a year ago for the kids and footballers who stay there. 

I’ve become very close with Milo over the last year and a bit sharing these rides, battling
each other on the chess board, talking about life. And while he is quiet in nature, his
story is one that screams out hope. It’s a story you need to hear, because if you are
reading this it means that you contribute to keeping his dreams alive. I give you Emile
Vaughan Arendse, Vice-Captain of Hout Bay United Football Community (HBUFC).

Milo’s Story

 

I was born in a hospital in Retreat (Cape Town). I’ve spent all my life in Hout Bay. My
mother grew up here, so did my grandmother. I’m told that our family used to live in
the valley area but then were forced to leave there and were placed in Hangberg. (In
1950 The Group Areas Act was passed which facilitated a forced relocation of the
coloured people staying in Hout Bay to Hangberg, an area designated for the coloured
population.) I’m one of six. I have a younger brother, two younger sisters and
twin boys at the end. 

For me if you don’t have support behind you in Hangberg as a youngster, then it’s easy to fall off the rails. But for me if my parents were working, I was with my grandparents. If I was doing something wrong, there was always someone to put me in my place. That family support was always there for me. I didn’t fall off the wagon to crime or become a gangster. I think I was more scared of my grandmothers than the gangsters. (Milo laughs to himself and takes a sip of his coke.) A lot of the youngsters in the community are smoking at age 13 or even 10 already on the street corners.

Nicholas The Seal

 

Both of my parents worked as waiters around Hout Bay. I think my mom has worked at
every restaurant around the harbour. Not because she would get fired, but because
she would try pick up extra shifts wherever she could. Most of the time they were
working double shifts to bring in money for the family, so I spent a lot of time with my
grandparents. Money was tight growing up and I watched just how hard me parents
would work to make ends meet. My dad even at one stage was feeding a seal to make
money. (At this stage I intervene and ask what exactly he means by making money
feeding a seal.)

So ja, my mother got sick for a while and my father had no job at the time, so at one
stage he befriended a big seal in the harbour. And he would sit with it, and it would sit
with him. And then when tourists came, he would let them feed it and touch it and pose
for pictures with it and then they would give him money and donations for his efforts.
(How exactly does one befriend a seal I asked?) I don’t know if I’m honest coach. I
never asked my dad, but I do know that over the years there have been specific seals
that some of the guys in the harbour would do this with. 

It’s interesting that on most occasions the seal will only come out of the water for a specific person. And that bond would last for like 20 years. It is quite something. Like if that seal sees my dad at the harbour, it comes out of the water to this day. Nicholas is the seals name (Milo laughs and shakes his head.) At that stage that was the only income coming in to support the whole family. Can you imagine making a living for your family like that. I have so much respect for my father and mother and that is why nothing is too much for me to do for my family.

I Started Fighting Back

 

My school days were not the easiest. I was always the smallest in my class and that
resulted in me being bullied almost every day. I would come home with bumps
and bruises, or my pockets and buttons torn. So I got home the one day and my father
had put together a boxing bag and hung it up for me. He showed me some moves to
work on and I really enjoyed the process of boxing. It made me get my confidence
back and I started fighting back at school. The boxing was meant to be for defending
myself. But I started a lot of the fights going forward with boys who had previously
bullied me. 

Eventually my dad sat me down and said that fighting should be my last resort. To walk away from a fight whenever I could. But that took a while to kick in. My grandmother was a teacher at the school and whenever I was caught fighting, they would send me to her classroom and would need to sit under a table in the corner as punishment. My parents wanted me to try everything I could as a youngster. All the extra mural activities that were on offer at Sentinel Primary (school in Hangberg) I was encouraged to do. One of my favourites was doing dance classes. The program was called ‘Jikeleza’ (Zulu word meaning – move around). Teachers from different schools and different styles of dancing would come teach us. 

So before football training started later in the afternoon, I was doing ballet or tap dancing (Milo laughs and shakes his head). Don’t tell the other guys about the ballet though coach hey! So we would dance until club football started and then we would sneak out of dance class and get to the football training. Looking back I did everything at school. Rugby, cricket, football, dancing, drumming, chess… I really did it all!

I Fell In Love With Soccer

 

I started at about age six. The jersey would hang around my knees. It looked like
pyjamas on me. But I fell in love with footballimmediately. Both my grandfathers were
soccer coaches in the community. There were a couple of teams that were formed but I
played for Bayview Rovers. I joined the under nine team as a six-year-old. What I
can remember about football was that it was the only thing I did that would make me
forget about the world. Would take me away from everything that I was dealing with at
that time. As a youngster I started as a midfielder, an eight, box to box. At age nine I was
invited to trials at Ajax Cape Town which was quite a big thing for young players in our
community. (Ajax Cape Town was 51% owned by the famous Ajax Amsterdam of
Holland, and at that time the Urban Warriors as they were known had the best youth
development academy in the Western Cape and scouted for the best talent available in
the region casting their net far and wide.) But I was not selected. I was
disappointed but my mother said to me to keep pushing and that there is a time for
everything and that my time would come to shine as a footballer. I’m glad I never gave
up on my dream. 

A while later at the age of 10 I was invited to trials at an Academy in Camps Bay (Affluent area along the Atlantic seaboard of Cape Town), and I was selected to stay at that academy. It was a great experience. We played against top teams like Ajax Cape Town. They provided meals when you arrived and extra schooling before training. I was there for two years but, unfortunately, they folded. I think their funding ran dry which was a huge disappointment for so many of us who were playing our football there. I returned to play for Bayview in Hangberg as a 13-year-old.

 At 15 I signed for Battswood FC in the Castle League (fourth tier of SA football) in 2015. The
following season I was signed by a Vodacom team, but I wasn’t happy there as I only got
one game. There was a lot of politics. (The Vodacom League is now the Motsepe League, third tier of SA football) I ended up leaving there and joining Hout Bay United’s U18 team. They were busy with the BayHill qualifying Playoffs. (The BayHill Tournament is the premier youth tournament in the country attracting youth teams from not only the South African Premier League but also across Europe.) We got knocked out and then after that I was registered for the Hout Bay United Football Community Castle League team. That season we won the league and ended up winning the promotion playoffs and went up into the Vodacom league. At the start of the new season I was back with the U18s and that season we won the treble! The league, the League Cup and the Coca Cola Cup. 

When our U18 league finished some of us stayed on to play in the Vodacom team as their season had not finished. I got my chance at right back and held onto my spot. During that time we played a friendly against Steenburg United, who were in the NFD and struggling. (The National First Division is the second tier of SA football and just one step away from the Premier League.) After that game Steenburg approached HBUFC for my services for the rest of the season to help them avoid relegation. HBUFC agreed to let me go on condition that Steenburg handed over a counter-clearance to ensure I returned back to Hout Bay at the end of the loan spell. 

I loved my time in the NFD. For the first time I was flying around the country playing football. The level of football was very different. Not so much about dealing with a full field press but more about controlling the game for long periods to try and shape chances to score. I loved it. I grew as a person and a player. I would love to play at that level again. Unfortunately Steenburg did not avoid relegation. The following season I returned to HBUFC.

The team of HBUFC had a great season that season. We started with a bang in
the Nedbank Cup advancing almost to the last 32. We had a great league run. We had
a new coach in Ryan Botha who had played at a higher level and his experience
helped the team. It was a positive season. We built on that the following season under
Ryan again and ended up so close to winning the league. We had the best defensive
record in the league. 

I picked up an injury towards the end of the season, a hernia type injury. But I was captain of the team and as we got towards the end of the season the games became more important. Management and the coaching staff asked me to play if I could in the second last game of the season and I did, but I made the injury worse. The season ended; we came close but not close enough. I took the off season to heal to come back in my best possible shape for this current season. To build on what we had achieved the season before.

We’re Still Looking At You

 

I must admit at the start of our current season that I was at first quite hurt, and then
quite worried. You see the season before I was captain. I was one of the better
performers, one of the constants. I had put myself at risk for the club by playing injured
towards the end. I guess in my head returning for the new season I assumed I would be
given a contract early on. But that wasn’t the case. I reported for preseason with a bunch
of trialists and we started training. 

After a couple of sessions I still had no contract and the coaching staff said to me, “We’re still having a look at you. We are looking at a couple of options in the backline.” I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. I was embarrassed to tell my fiancé and family that I hadn’t received a
contract halfway through preseason because that would have just put more pressure on
me. Eventually I had to tell my fiancé that I was just on trial and that I might need to look for a club outside of Hout Bay, which would have made things very difficult for us. But I would have made things work. I was never going to give up on the dream.

Have You Considered Playing As Striker?

 

Then one day Mike Darby (Former HBUFC team manager now heading up the
FTIFA (Fleetwood Town International Football Academy) program) said to me I should
consider trying out as a striker for the team because looking at the squad that was
where there were very few options. At first, I thought he was joking. I had captained
the side from the centre of defence the season before and he was asking me to go try
play as a striker. I continued trialling as a defender. 

Halfway through preseason there was a change in coaching staff and coach Ryan and his assistants left and HBUFC asked the FTIFA coach to take also our team – now we had a Spanish coach, coach Borja come in and take over. After a couple sessions he came to me and said he thinks I should be playing striker. That I had the attributes that suited the role. I was surprised but I did it. A week later the club offered me a contract. It’s a strange game football.

A Hattrick In Our First Game

 

The season started with a Nedbank Cup game, and a lot of the HBUFC supporters
who watched the game were surprised to see meplaying upfront. Some of our former
players from the community laughed at me when they saw me upfront and shouted a
couple of things at me from the side lines. I scored three goals in the game, and we
won it. Nobody laughs anymore and now they call me ‘striker’ from the side lines. As
we speak, we have played seven games in total, and I have scored six goals. That’s
not a bad return so far, I think. Obviously, it’s not just about goals, it’s results that
count, but I feel like I am doing my part for the team.

Life Changes But The Dream Remains

 

I was still in high school when my first child arrived. Ventaysia, now my fiancé and me
at that time were just friends. We started hanging out. And then I started noticing she
was putting on weight. I actually made jokes about it, and never did it cross my mind
that she was pregnant. For whatever reason she didn’t tell me. One day I was walking
home from school and her mother saw me and called me in to their place. She sat me
down and told me that my girlfriend was pregnant and that I needed to know about it. I
was in shock! Her mother asked what the plan was? I told her mother that this child
would not grow up without a mother and a father and that we would make this work. I
left there bewildered. At the time I was bringing in R500 a month playing
for the HBUFC Vodacom team. Of that I had to give R250 to my parents

Elijah is now four. I made it work and kept my word. But we recently had our second, Arlo. Again it was not planned but I now have two beautiful children. Life has really changed for me and I’m working hard every day just to make things work. Just to put food on the table for my family and to support the house I need to put in a lot of extra time. Life for me daily is training in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon with Hout Bay. Later in the afternoon I go and coach the Hout Bay kids. The club has given the opportunity to earn extra money this way and I have a real passion for coaching, and it’s a way to bring in some much-needed extra cash. By doing around 25 coaching sessions and then coaching the team in games on weekends I can earn another plus minus R2500 which goes a long way in helping.

My dream was always to play overseas and play in a higher division and make some money for my family. The dream hasn’t changed. Now that Fleetwood Town FC is connected with HBUFC the dream is even closer. (Fleetwood Town Football club is a professional club in England that competes in League One and has established a FTIFA Cape Town branch in Hout Bay that runs parallel to the Hout Bay United Football Community project.) I’m just 24. If I have a great season maybe Fleetwood Town FC asks to have a closer look at me. I have never given up and I never will. Hopefully some of the kids here who read this story and are experiencing challenges in their lives will be motivated in some way to do the same.

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