Blog

Through interviews, articles and photography, this blog will share a series of untold stories from around the world of football.

Township Football #3 - Classroom

Deep in discussion whilst overseeing a training session, Dumi shared his desire to help more with the boys’ school work as well as their football, frustrated by their overfilled classrooms and lack of appetite for the classroom. Having designed and taught some football-themed English tutoring in Manchester whilst at University years ago, I hurriedly offered my services as a makeshift teacher for the rest of my stay in Cape Town. It was agreed that I would plan a range of English and Maths sessions, teaching core skills through football themed activities and scenarios.

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Digital Dreams of World Cup Glory

Whether it was the birth of extensive media coverage of our favourite games, the growth of wearable exercise technology, or the ongoing debate around VAR and digital decision making, it’s fair to say technology is playing an increasingly significant role in global sport. South African football is currently undergoing a digitisation of its own, hoping to harness the power of technology to find and develop the next generation of talent around the country.

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New Team, Big Dreams

Created just 3 years ago, after the purchase and relocation of the Mpumalanga Black Aces franchise, the club is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with in African football. So what does it take to create a new football culture in a city still deeply divided in post-apartheid South Africa? After a chance meeting at a recent home fixture, I was lucky enough to sit down with Michel Comitis, CTC’s Commercial Director, to find out more. 


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Township Football #2 - Training

Today, the township has hundreds of football teams and thousands of players, with the sport impossible to ignore when you drive around. Makeshift goal frames stand amidst the township’s rolling fields, pitches of various shapes and sizes visible at every turn. The football community is so huge that there are now 5 separate Local Football Associations operating within Khayelitsha alone, with new teams and academies forming by the week, a sign that more people have followed in Dumi’s footsteps around the township.

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Township Football #1 - Dumi's Story

Mawande told stories of his upbringing (and fledgling football playing days) in one of the country’s biggest townships, Khayelitsha, a swarming settlement situated on the coastal road between Cape Town and the wine region. As our journey came to an end, Mawande kindly offered me an introduction to his former coach, hoping he would give me a chance to see township football for myself.

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Cape Town Football Debut

Whilst on holiday in Cape Town a couple of years ago, I was keen to experience as much of South African culture as possible. Sitting in the sun-kissed garden of a Constantia vineyard, it was our sommelier who expressed his, and clearly his nation's, favouritism for the egg shaped ball. It seemed football has traditionally been the poor relation, playing third fiddle to rugby and cricket in the hearts of the many South African sports fans.

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From Bollywood to the Boardroom

High-profile club ownership is nothing new to the football world. But what about when your owner happens to be a movie star with about 18 million social media followers, who started the club from scratch and is involved in its day-to-day affairs? Meet John Abraham, the Bollywood star who dreamed of playing for his country as a young boy, and who is now investing far more than just his money to build a football legacy in his home country.

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'Football is just Football'

My first impressions of Indian football culture were all experienced through the city of Mumbai. Despite the growing interest and clear passion for the game there, so often it is overtaken or forgotten, whether thanks to cricket, or any number of other economic, geographic or social factors. When I enquired about football throughout the rest of India, three key states were mentioned: Kerala, Bengal and Goa. Friends described to me scenes of colour and chaos on game days, packed out stadiums and thriving grassroots cultures, and it seemed a necessity to go and witness some of this for myself.

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Kolkata Derby

Most people would assume an Indian sporting fixture that regularly attracts more than 100,000 people could only be one thing: a game of cricket. But tell that to the people of Kolkata, who on Sunday gathered at the city's Salt Lake Stadium for the latest instalment of the 'Boro Derby', as East Bengal took on Mohun Bagan in what might well be the most well-attended, fiercely competitive and historically significant derby you've never heard of.

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Giving Something Back

Although this trip was intended to be more about relaxation than football discovery, upon opening the boot of the car I was greeted with a bag brimming full of balls and plastic cones. Remembering my friend’s forewarning that his Dad had been ‘a bit of a player’ back in the day, and was still involved in the local football scene here in Goa, I was curious to find out more about his story.

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Freestyle Football

He introduced himself as Mario, and after a few minutes of speaking, it transpired that he was a freelance footballer based here in Mumbai. I was intrigued to find out more, and Mario kindly invited me to join him and a friend the following day for practice at a nearby ground. Curious to discover more about the origins of Mario’s freestyle career, and to learn about where this form of the game fits into Indian football culture, the next day I was up and at it, en route to Vile Parle to find out more.

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