2010 was the year Bernd Steinhage established the Young Bafana Soccer Academy. The vision for this academy grew when Bernd, a native South African – son of a German father and a Namibian mother – decided at the age of 18, to take an extended stay abroad.
For seven years, Bernd lived in Germany, Spain and Nicaragua. On his journey, he was a professional footballer and active as a social worker. He also completed a business administration degree in Berlin. After seven years, he returned to his homeland South Africa and decided to follow his passion, developing others by means of education and soccer.
"There were just eight children at the school where everything started. Today we have over 120 - and the cooperation with the schools still exist."
As a result of South Africa hosting the Soccer World Cup in 2010, interest for soccer increased immensely. However, the majority of children could not afford to pay fees for a private club or their transport to practices and matches. All they wanted was to play soccer in a safe and productive learning environment.
"The thumb rule was that for every 10 paying children, Young Bafana would give a scholarship to a non paying child. Having realised the positive impact these scholarships had on the children, the programme expanded rapidly."
In 2012, the first performance team was established. Township children from the surrounding Lwandle and Nomzamo areas played together with children from socially stable backgrounds.
"In the first year children were forced to practice barefoot. For one simple reason: they had to earn their shoes! Mutual respect and appreciation play a major role at Young Bafana. For many of the children being taught the correct values is not a given due to the daily confrontation with drugs and violence."
Due to the poor learning conditions, lack of English proficiency and various other daily challenges the children are faced with, Young Bafana inaugurated a compulsory educational programme in January 2014.
Every player is obliged to attend the additional education programme which consists of English, mathematics, computer literacy and life-orientation. Career guidance is offered to the older beneficiaries who are on the verge of completing high school.
Due to the outstanding support of the Nomzamo clinic in Cape Town our players receive general check ups through qualified doctors. A medical report is kept on file for each player.
"Due to the obvious deterioration of the South African education system, an additional education system was initiated in 2014. If a teacher has 50 pupils – all from the local township – crammed into a 25 sqm classroom, very little progress can be expected. Education is the key and the English language is the most important element."
The academy receives extensive support from interns from around the world, including USA, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
To date in excess of 60 interns have completed an internship with YB. They are involved in soccer coaching, teaching, marketing, physical training and special projects.
"The sporting success story emphasizes the quality of the internal structures as well as the passion shown by coaches and players, both on and off the field.
However Young Bafana's motto of 'changing lives' goes further than just soccer – it focusses on the individual development of every player and we strive to achieve this through soccer, education and social development. We want to offer them a better life without drugs and violence."