Soccer scores against crime

2018-02-06 06:01
A recent Ajax Hotspot clinic held in Tafelsig. PHOTO: Mitchell’s Plain police

A recent Ajax Hotspot clinic held in Tafelsig. PHOTO: Mitchell’s Plain police

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An initiative aimed at turning crime hotspots into hubs for social behaviour has been around for more than 10 years and continues to yield success in vulnerable communities.

In 2007, the Ajax Community Scheme partnered with the British High Commission, Metropolitan Police, South African Police Service, Charlton Athletic and British Airways in a community initiative with the aim of development.

This initiative is made possible through partnership activity and the development of community safety strategies, engaging with communities particularly in Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha, says Riyaad Khan, community scheme co-ordinator for Ajax Cape Town.

“[We develop these strategies through] engaging with the communities to reduce crime, increase community confidence in the police and embed sport as a tool to build community cohesion.

“Through this partnership we have now seen the number of community coaches grow from the original 24 qualified coaches at the start of the community scheme to 69 community coaches at present. The growth in the number of community coaches is to ensure we can expand and cope with the demand for the community work we are doing,” says Khan.

Community coaches are volunteers and Khan says many of them are unavailable for clinics due to their full-time jobs, with only 20 coaches now active.

Recently, the club partnered with Mitchell’s Plain police following a spate of shootings in Tafelsig (“Ajax joins police in street soccer initiative”, People’s Post, 30 January). “It is important to give back to youth at risk because we are more than just a football club and have an obligation to care and give back to the communities of Cape Town who support us so much. Football also has the power to change lives and we must use this vehicle to engage these youth at risk and provide them with opportunities and hope,” says Khan.

Through their current initiative and partnership with Mitchell’s Plain police, they run clinics once a week between 16:00 and 18:00 in areas identified within the community where crime levels are high, or where antisocial behaviour occurs.

“We will then meet there at the hotspot with Ajax coaches and police officers to perform a clinic. The Ajax coaches will lead the soccer coaching, which will consist of drills focusing on fundamental aspects such as passing, dribbling, etc, and also small-sided games. The officers will assist with the coaching but will also ensure the environment is safe. There may also be other activities such as netball or some life skills workshops taking place, providing information on topics such as drugs, HIV and more,” says Khan.

The initiative is referred to as Ajax Hotspots and thus far, clinics have been held at least three nights per week, with each clinic catering to around 100 children across Mitchell’s Plain, Khayelitsha, Philippi, Crossroads and Gugulethu.

“This will continue very strongly with the Mitchell’s Plain police in conjunction with Officer Dion Warner. We will commit to Hotspots once a week but will only be able to do them in conjunction with police. We are also looking at taking this Hotspot programme to other communities, but need to get the buy-in from the police in those communities,” says Khan.

“Proof of the success of this module is the fact that police have confirmed that children’s participation in sport is on the increase, and communities where these projects are in operation have seen crime levels reduced.”

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