FOR coach and former player Rabi Gonqua soccer is not just a game, but a tool to reach out and bring hope to many youngsters in the Walmer Township.
The founder and coach of township team Real Madrid FC, aims not only to develop players, but to prepare them for life.
The former PE City and Callies player had ambitions of playing in the PSL, attending trials at Jomo Cosmos and Witbank Spurs. But a recurring leg injury put a damper on his dreams.
After spending several seasons playing at club level, Gonqua, 40, decided to form his own team in 2002.
His goal was to build players as well as nurture young adults.
“There are too many criminals in the township and no role models. We want to take the kids away from the street because crime doesn’t pay,” said Gonqua.
Real Madrid consist of 80 players, from U11 to senior level.
The senior team are affiliated to the Walmer Football Association.
The team have won several major tournaments in the Bay. Gonqua attributes their success to the fact that the players are developed through the different age groups.
Because many of the players come from disadvantaged backgrounds, emphasis is placed on encouraging education.
Education and soccer go together, but school is more important, said Gonqua.
“If you become a top player and you’re not educated, you can’t manage your own career such as finances.”
He said children imitate the wrong people such as criminals in their flashy cars and clothes. That is why Gonqua has invited PSL players to play in the team in special tournaments like the annual Walmer Soccer Derby.
“I have managed to get top players like Siyabulela Songwiqi. I want the kids to know that they can make it to that level. I want to change their attitude towards the game.”
Real Madrid host the annual Walmer Soccer Derby which is in its tenth year this year. With the slogan “Together we can fight crime”, the tournament aims to highlight the problem of crime and encourage young men to lead an honest life.
The team receive backing from Algoa Oil CEO Dieter Rohrich and recently acquired a new sponsor in Finro Cash and Carry.
Gonqua’s next goal is to start an academy.