“We are a family of survivors. We survived a cruel generation. We fought a hard fight. Even if we closed our eyes today, I know our kids don’t have to fight that fight.”

Graham and Olivia Adams are our newly appointed house father and mother, who live at The Dream Factory with their children. What started as a catchy headline and an intuitive feeling has unearthed a truly remarkable tale. It’s a story about football, love, hardship, tragedy, fortitude, and family. One that had us all crying and laughing together.

Graham’s Football Journey…

I was born and bred in Steenberg. At 4 years old, my uncle took me down to the soccer field and I fell in love with the ball. My dad left at 5 years old. He was an ex-footballer and a role model to me. So, it felt like I lost something big from my life. Things got difficult for my single mom, raising my two sisters and myself. I used to travel from a young age, and I can remember waiting for my mom to come home for a R2 to take the train.

Going to the soccer field on a Saturday was my joy and people noticed that I was very talented on the field. At 10 years old I joined Wesley United, before being scouted to play for Crusaders United U12s. We had a lot of talented players, including Benni McCarthy. We were known as “Santos Brazil” and won tournaments all over Cape Town. I remember losing the final game of the league that year to Hellenic, who Bradley August played for.

At 15, I joined Seven Stars, owned by Bob Moore. Myself, Benni, and Jeremy Jansen were the first players of colour on the team. We went on a Joburg tour, where we played against Steven Pienaar, and against Kaizer Chiefs. In the last match, we beat Mamelodi Sundowns 4-1 in hot, hot conditions, and they wanted to sign seven of our players after. But I decided to come back home. Next season I turned 16 and played U19 for Coach Ian Towers and in the pro team under Coach Gavin Hunt, training two days per week with each. They were so impressed with me.

I would run in my school clothes at 14:30 to catch a taxi to make training in Phillipi – running through the streets of a township with no fear, only dedication to succeed – but I was getting home after 9pm at night. One day, a Milano scout came to my school and into my classroom. He wanted me to train with them. I didn’t want to let my mother down. It was much closer to home, just 10-15 minutes away. So, I said I’d give it a try. Getting a clearance was a big problem. The Seven Stars GM was a big man. He drove up to me when I was walking in the street one day and said, “You’re going nowhere!”

Eventually, I got my clearance. In the first season, I was doing really well, playing as a left or right winger, striker, and number 10 under Boebie Solomons. I played with big-name players and travelled all over South Africa at16 years old. PE, Durban, everywhere we went, I really enjoyed it. I also played in the Bayhill (U19 tournament), which we lost 2-1 in the final against Hellenic. They were basically the best youth team in SA and won it a few times in a row. That season went well, playing double-headers at 9pm on Saturdays and3pm on Sundays, with 1-hour training sessions on the beach sand on Saturdays. I enjoyed experiencing all the different cultures, religions, and environments.

Everything went well until the last game of the season. I trained on my own for 3-4 hours on the Saturday. Bayhill was coming up again the next weekend. I said I wasn’t going to play in the final league game for the senior team – I wanted to focus on my future and be someone. We were 5th onthe table with nothing to play for, but the boss told me I had to play. In the first 15 minutes, we were 3-0 up. 3 assists for me, all crosses. That’s when a guy took me out and tore my ACL. I still tried to play at Bayhill but struggled to come back for the next two years. I kept getting re-injured and decided I had to take a year out to rest.

Olivia’s Painful Start…

I was born at Groote Schuur Hospital and raised in Grassy Park. Growing up, I had a hard life. My family was my mom and dad, three brothers, and one sister. We moved into a three-bedroom flat in Lavender Hill. My dad worked for De Beers as a ship mechanic. Mom worked in a factory. From 12 years old, I also went to work in the factory after school. When Dad came home from sea, he used to shout and fight… (Olivia burst into tears before she could finish her sentence.)

My mom was a wonderful woman. I helped her. My dad was a party animal. The house was so lovely when he wasn’t there. My parents divorced after 25 years. He left for a new life with a younger woman. I left home at 20 and got into partying and drugs. I got in with the wrong group of friends and gave in to peer pressure.

Peanut Butter and Bread on Our Wedding Night

Graham: We met and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was staying on the road with all the soccer players. I think she enquired about me.

Olivia: We met on my birthday, 12 May, in 2004. We were both in our 20sand moved in together at Graham’s mom’s house. Graham’s birthday is on 13 September. So, we decided to get married on 13/12. We ate peanut butter and bread on our wedding night. Money was tight but we had love and peanut butter. It was very tough where we came from. At times, we didn’t have something to eat. It was just the two of us, we didn’t let other people know what was going on.

Kesia, our daughter, was born first in 2006. Matthew was born in 2009. Life was tough when we had them. We moved to Montague Village and had Graham’s mom close by. Graham named Miguel, our third child. He wanted a Spanish name. Both Matthew and Miguel’s names end in “Graham Adams” to honor Graham’s legacy. Through hard work, things started to get better for us. In 2013, we bought the house we were renting. Still, I remember sending Matthew to the shop and having him count the change when he got back. I was never sure but pretended he was right. Miguel always followed in his footsteps. Soon, gangsterism got out of control in the area. The kids could look out the window from the top bunk and see gangsters with guns.

Dead Bodies Lying In The Road

Graham: I used to walk to work and see dead bodies lying in the road. One day, they shot someone dead right in front of our gate, through the head. That’s when we decided it was time to move, in 2015.

Olivia: I learned to become a master of all trades. I cooked, tiled, and kept myself busy around the house. I did lots of thinking outside the box. One day, we had an intruder in our home. I still don’t know where I got the strength to push this oke (slang for “guy”), but I told him to “vok off” (f***off) and pushed him out of the house.

Three months after that shooting, we moved to Southern Mills. Squash was born there in 2018 – Malaki Graham Adams. Graham worked a lot and our rent was very high. Without him knowing, I started building a Wendy house at my dad’s house in Grassy Park. I’d take R1 000 out the bank to buy material and, together with Matthew, Miguel, and Malaki, we’d go build the house while Graham was at work. One day, when it was ready, I surprised him and showed him the Wendy house. He saw all the flaws. But I wanted to save money. So, I convinced him. We gave notice on our rental and moved in. None of us knew Covid was coming at this point. We focused on the positives – we had food for the kids and fed my dad too. Soon, we put electricity on the property. At first, it was very hard but Graham is always very positive. He’s helped me to heal many parts of my life.


I Felt Like I Gave Up on life

When Corona came around, it hit Kesia, Graham, and Matthew first. Graham had a heart attack. Matthew was very, very strong. He’d always run around and do things for me. I always tell him we have this relationship where we can look at each other and he knows what I’m thinking. He went with Graham to the hospital. The doctor told him, “If you didn’t come here, you would have died.”

Graham: I’m in the ICU, laying there, watching people dying. I’m burning on the inside, asking the Lord, “Why me?” A stranger from across the room came to me, encouraged me, and prayed for me. I felt the doctors give up on me, they thought I was going to die. I felt like I gave up on life. But on a Friday morning, I thought of my family. I couldn’t give up, I had to fight for them. I couldn’t walk but I told them I wanted to get up to use the toilet and shower. I told myself I was going to stand up and that’s exactly what I did. The doctors and nurses couldn’t believe it. On Sunday, I went home against the doctor’s advice.

Olivia: I phoned disaster management and told them, “I have four kids here and we have Corona”. Within one hour, they fetched us and took us to what felt like a hotel in Pinelands. Matthew’s nose was so big. Kesia was sick. Graham first went to his mom’s place when he got out. Then we all packed up and went home. As soon as we were all together as a family, his cough got better.

Either Mom Dies, Baby Dies, or BOTH Die…

After Corona passed, Graham got me pregnant again. Child number five. We were so close. We would spend Christmas together, just our small family. For the first time, we were finally settled and ready to have a child. For the first time, we gave our child a name before he was born, “Matteo”. We all spoke to him like he was there. Everyone would rub my belly. When he passed on, it felt like we were living with him already. I realized later on that, through his passing, I almost died.

Graham: The doctor told me, “Either Mom dies, baby dies, or both die. ”He was a full 9 months. So beautiful… (Now, we were all in tears.) I still always think about him, if I watch Malaki sometimes. I wonder what he would have been. Would he have played? He had a purpose. He brought us closer. The Lord used Matteo. We’re so close as a family. We sit and talk about things. Nobody will understand what we have as a family.

Olivia: I had a haemorrhage from a tear inside my uterus. The doctor told the kids to “kiss her and go home” like it was a kiss goodbye. The doctors didn’t clean me up properly inside after Matteo died. It was negligence. I went from hospital to hospital, having fits. They rushed me to Groote Schuur. I was fighting for my life. That night, laying in hospital, I felt my spirit leaving my body and I saw a bright light. Before I went, I said, “God, my children, my children… What is my legacy?” I wanted to fight to be with my kids. Months passed, filled with medical bills and lots of stress. When I was so sick, Malaki always came to me and hugged me. He feels me and that’s why he’s my squash. (That’s when our tears turned to laughter.)

Ever since, I believe there’s a plan for all of us. Everyone we meet is for a reason. We are a family of survivors. We survived a cruel generation. We fought a hard fight. Even if we closed our eyes today, I know our kids don’t have to fight that fight. Coach Mike was the first person to reach out to us. Coach Byron came into our house to help change our lives. To Mike, Jeremy, Iris, all the coaches, and everyone at HBUFC, we’re incredibly grateful. It’s hard work, but we’re all so grateful for where we are now.

Olivia heads up our canteen, keeping the players well-fuelled, but also providing them with the love of a motherly figure. Graham helps make sure they’re on their best behaviour. He’s also done what we’re trying to do four times – win the Motsepe League. Matthew is a very special footballing talent. At just 14, he’s already a very exciting prospect, having recently been called up to the South African U15 team. Miguel plays for our U12 team and Malaki is growing up at a football academy with a ball at his feet all day. The family is at the heart of what we’re building as a club, academy, and community. We are entrusting Graham and Olivia to look after our children and raise our family in the same way they’ve raised theirs. With love and unity.

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