"The next Philipp Lahm", he must have thought, as I was shifted from striker to right back. Yes, 'The Magic Dwarf" started out as a right back too. I loved it.

Most Germans I’ve met are “from a small town near” somewhere. This is ‘The Story of Eli’, our volunteer / social media guru who came all the way from Staufen, near Frieburg.

This is Africa!

 
 

My story starts at age 11, a year after the post-apocalyptic action film ‘The Book of Eli’ came out. After being scouted to play for SC Freiburg U/12s, my first season felt a lot like Denzil Washington’s journey through the desert. I travelled 35 minutes to training and back, three times per week, didn’t get much game time, and didn’t get on with the coach. It felt like a struggle, but I realise now that I had no idea what struggling truly looked like.

Fortunately, my next coach saw something in me. “The next Philipp Lahm”, he must have thought, as I was shifted from striker to right back. Yes, ‘The Magic Dwarf” started out as a right back too. I loved it.

Fast forward a couple of years and we were playing against some of Deutschland s finest opposition, like Vf Stuttgart and Bavarian giants Bayern Munich. Weekdays were spent at school and playing football, while entire weekends were often devoted to away games. It was very cool but also tiring.

At 15, a preseason injury forced me out for the first half of the season and, during the second half of the season, I decided I didn’t want to become a professional player. So, I talked to my coaches and left the Academy. I’ll always be grateful to Freiburg for being a club that really cares about its players and ensures we do well in school. But it was time for change and I found happiness in spending time with friends, getting to know other sports, and playing less-competitive football for the love of it.

I soon bought a GoPro and started developing my interest in photography and film. My dad was a very good self-taught photographer. I booked a trip to Cape Town in 2019,
stayed in Sea Point, and spent most of my time there and in the City Bowl. To be honest, it was beautiful but underwhelming. I expected it to be bigger and, well, less European. “This isn’t Africa, it’s so normal”, I remember thinking. At least not the Africa I had in mind. Looking back, I spent my time here as a tourist, visiting attractions and not getting involved in the community. Back to Germany I went to study for a degree in Sports Science and coach football. When scouring the Eberhard Karls Universität website for obligatory internship opportunities, I found Hout Bay United, a ‘Football Community’. Was this the Africa I’d been searching for?

Before I knew it, I was on a plane back to Cape Town for round two, this time as an HBUFC volunteer. On my second day, myself and another volunteer were moving our beds into The Beach House, which is right next to the beach! We got the two beds into the room but couldn’t close the door. My new roommate looked at me and said, “TIA” and we both just laughed. Indeed, this is Africa. When something doesn’t go right the first time, you just adapt and try again. 

At first, the warm, friendly, and extroverted ways of South Africans can be a bit overwhelming, especially for a reserved German, but you quickly get used to it. Cape Town also has an abundance of authentic and kind people. I’ve been fortunate to connect with so many players, staff, and interesting people during my time here, all while gaining valuable experience in a footballing context. I even celebrated my 23rd birthday as the only umhlungu (white person) partying in Imizamo Yethu until the sun came up. The good energy, happiness, and vibrancy of the local people are contagious. It’s also funny how someone can have two, three, or even four different names and nicknames. After giving some guys a lift one day (and driving on the opposite side of the road to back home), I became “Mr. Driver”

 

I arrived with the intention of coaching, but the club didn’t need coaches. I think they saw something in me when they put me on social media duties instead. They seem to have a good feel for placing volunteers in ideal positions to help you find your passions and give you the best experience.

I’d already seen the @hbufcommunity Instagram account and really liked what I saw. I’d be taking over from a fellow German volunteer, so it promised to be a smooth transition. I was given the freedom to “run around Hout Bay and film stuff”. You should see me out there, flowing amongst the on-field action with a camera in hand, in my creative element. In my natural habitat, as if I’m gliding through the water just like one of the dolphins that often visit Hout Bay.

I’ve recently been told by a local that I’m “a natural” — thanks, Dad! My original idea was to go back to Germany and become a teacher, but this experience has changed something inside me. Reflecting back, it feels like the stars have aligned, and I can now see a future with my passions combined. Once again, I feel like I’ve found my happy place. I love it.

One of the strangest things I’ve experienced is something called ‘load shedding’. After dinner one night at The Beach House, everything all of a sudden went dark. All my housemates turned on their phones’ flashlights and continued chatting as if everything was normal. It was a rolling electricity blackout. soon got used to it and even enjoyed how load shedding brought people together into the present moment. I was amazed when the final home game of Elite Men’s Team’s season had to be moved to another venue and played a day earlier at the last minute because of load shedding. It’s another reminder of the need to adapt and figure things out as we go along. After all, this is Africa.

It’s not only the parties, nicknames, dolphins, and load shedding, though. I’ve been into the hearts of the underprivileged communities and seen how they survive and even thrive against all odds. In Hout Bay, I finally found the community connection I’d been searching for. I’ve been so impressed by the diversity here. Smaller communities within the broader community – each with its own people, cultures, and traditions – coming together and connecting at Hout Bay United. Maybe it’s all a lesson in resilience, adaptability, and perspective, and a reminder to be grateful for how easy we have it back home. Kids growing up here aren’t so lucky, and they’re not just visitors who can choose to go back home to a first-world country.

Poverty makes their circumstances extremely challenging. Malnutrition is a major concern and they can easily turn to gangsterism and drugs as an external effort to escape their internal wounds, and for some, their external wounds too. For. many, football provides a healthy escape.
We are doing our best to support the local community and keep children off the streets through the power of football. We thank each and every one of you for reading our newsletter, and for your continued support and contributions. You are making a real difference in this world. You are helping to change lives.

Verified by MonsterInsights