Rainbow team to Gothia

2018-07-12 06:00
Siph’esihle Songanga.

Siph’esihle Songanga.

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Siph’esihle Songanga, a soccer player from Nyanga, is on his way to Sweden with the Rainbow Team to take part for the fourth time in the Soccer Youth World Cup in Gothenburg.

Sihle to his friends, he is a learner at Camps Bay High School and also the captain of the team.

The team consists of 16 boys from different backgrounds. They all represent different league teams like Hellenic, Ajax, Hout Bay United, Camps Bay and the Tuks.

Pernilla Landstedt, founder of the Rainbow Team and director of Propel Africa Destination Management said: “The Gothia Cup will be taking place from Sunday 15 to Sunday 21 July and there will be 1736 teams participationg from 79 countries.

“Over 40 000 players and coaches as well as more than 50 000 companions will watch more than 4300 matches during the week. A third of the games will be live-streamed and more thant 600 000 people are expected to watch the matches during the week.”

Sihle added: “I play for Camps Bay and the motto of the Rainbow Team: ‘a part of something bigger’, really has special meaning for me. Every person is unique, and can contribute to a better soccer team and a better society­.”

This is the fourth year that the team is attending the Gothia Cup.

“The first year we came top 64, the following year we came top 32, last year we came top 16, out of 204 teams. This year we are competing in a group of 188 teams in the Boys 16 years old,” Landstedt said.

The team comes together three times a week in nine months of the year when they train, play matches or give of their time to help other soccer initiatives in underprivileged areas.

Landstedt adds: “The boys have to adhere to a code of conduct to be part of the project and we keep in contact with their schools, soccer clubs and parents to make sure they stick to these. If they don’t they will be warned and eventually taken off the project.”

She said for them, it is not only about the soccer and going to the tournament in Sweden­.

“We find different organisations and initiatives to interact with. This past season we have been busy with a lot of different things such as the soccer ball drive when we gave away a few hundred soccer balls to kids right before Christmas. The soccer balls came from donations from individuals and companies in Sweden,” Landstedt said.

The idea behind the Rainbow Team was born when Landstedt visited her home country, Sweden, in the summer of 2014.

“My son, then aged 12, asked if we could travel with a South African team to the Gothia Cup. Back in Cape Town, I contacted Anees Abbas, head coach of my son’s soccer club. He immediately embraced the idea of hand-picking a team of dedicated soccer players from different ethnic and economic backgrounds, and voilà, the Rainbow Team came to life,” she said.

Sihle said: “Before that, three years ago, I had never been outside South Africa. Now that I’ve travelled, I’ve become more curious to see how other people live and to interact with them. I’ve learnt a lot about how things work in other societies, and I’ve also learnt to adapt to different places and situations.

“When you know how to adapt, you become more open as a person. The Gothia Cup has given me exposure and new experiences and I’ve made many friends from all over the world that I still keep in touch with.

“I started at Camps Bay Pre-Primary when I was seven. I started playing soccer also at the age of seven.

“My other hobby is (playing in) a marimba band. In the present Soccer World Cup in Russia, I supported all the African teams. My favorite soccer players are Marcelo Vieira of Brazil and Real Madrid globally and Willard Katsande of Kaizer Chiefs locally,” Sihle said.

He hopes to further his studies at UCT.

“Representing South Africa at the Gothia Cup is the highlight of my soccer career. My message to young sport stars is to not give up, as life changing opportunities and experience arise when least expected it,” he said.

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