A Factreton couple believe that keeping children occupied with sports teaches them discipline and encourages them to stay out of trouble.
Lynn and Hilton Williams, who have lived in the area for several years, started the Dapper United Football Club seven years ago to provide an alternative for youngsters.
The pair, both unemployed, saw the desperate need for children in the area to be kept entertained, especially over the weekend, when many of them are aimlessly wandering the streets. Hilton says: “I used to play soccer many years ago. Both my wife and I have a passion for kids and we decided to do something positive for our community. We want them to understand that through sport, you can go forward in life.”
He says their aim is to provide a fun, safe, quality soccer experience for all youth. And to promote excellence in sportsmanship and conduct in all players, coaches, referees and parents. Hilton explains they started off with only a handful of children but says now they have more than 30 boys and young men made up of teams which range between the ages of nine and 30. According to Hilton this number is growing rapidly as more boys are showing interest and joining daily.
He says practice takes place from Monday to Thursday between 05:00 to 06:30.
“As the coach, I teach them how to perform on the field, how to play ball and how to be a team player. We need a lot of patience with the younger ones who just want to kick the ball around,” says Hilton.
He says they also encourage the group to remain focused on their academics and says his home is often a hub where the children come to if they need help with schoolwork.
According to Hilton, Sundays are set aside for match days where the different teams get to play against other opponents.
Lynn says she is the disciplinarian. “We love what we do and it brings us joy seeing the excitement on their faces. I often reprimand them and tell them that they need to behave.”
Lynn also calls on local government to fix the soccer field in Dapper Road which she says is in poor condition.
“We now have to walk all the way to 14th Avenue to play and practice on that field.”
According to Lynn their biggest challenge is that many of the children come from disadvantaged backgrounds and cannot afford basic soccer gear like vests and soccer boots.
“We are always looking for donations – things like soccer boots and socks, water bottles, soccer balls, shin guards,” explains Lynn.
She encourages community members to get involved and says they do not want any money but rather soccer equipment which they can use.