I am a PhD student in African history at Michigan State University. My research focuses on the history of Zulu masculinity and youth culture, including male rites of passage, athletics, and responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic
Not Just About Kicking A Ball: Football and Youth Development in Post-Apartheid South Africa In January 2014, Bafana Bafana, the South African national football team, was dealt with a devastating defeat by Nigeria in the opening round of the African Nations Championship. While initial reactions to this loss largely focused on lambasting the individual players and coaches. These critics failed to recognize the more deeply engrained structural issues made apparent by Bafana’s continuing poor performance in the international competition. Though both the Ministry of Sports & Recreation and the South African Football Association claimed to value development as a core tenet of their respective mandates, there has been little evidence of these sporting bodies following through with these claims. This is representative of longer historical trends in regards to South Africa’s commitment to sports development in the post-apartheid era. Though development efforts have been few, some grassroots initiative have illustrated the rich rewards that can result from investment of time and resources in young talent. One of these programs is Izichwe Football Club, an initiative developed on the University of KwaZ ulu-Natal campus in Pietermaritzburg in 2010. Spearheaded by Thabo Dladla, a former professional player, Izichwe Football Club shows the great potential of grassroots development to not only to refine the immense athletic talent of these youth, but also to develop young men of character and respect who represent their communities and themselves with pride and honor. Utilizing interviews with players and coaches, as well as drawing on the secondary literature on soccer in South Africa, this paper argues that South Africa needs to invest in the development of football from the grassroots level to fuel the development of quality football talent, as well as the growth of productive citizens in a democratic society.