Afrika’s tale—saved from the streets to play on the streets

“Football is about winning and losing, but you must never give up, win or lose,” Afrika says. “What makes a better man is a man who lost and always [is] happy. … That makes a better player than a player that drinks and celebrates.”

With its culminating 9–1 victory over Malawi on Sept 13, South Africa finished 17th. Two days after winning the Milan trophy the side met deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, who noted the benefits of football’s intrinsic emphasis on goal-setting. “Football is not just a game,” he said. “Football is actually a philosophy of life.”

To Thomas, the trip to Italy transformed Afrika—the oldest member of the side—from ex-gangster to little boy. World travel did not come easily at the beginning. On the journey’s first leg between Cape Town and Johannesburg, players had to be ushered from the aisle back to their seats when they thought the plane was headed for a crash landing.

Afrika has become a world citizen. His parting words are diplomatic. “You enjoy the evening in America and say hi for everybody.”

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1 comment on this post.
  1. ward Mailliard:

    I think that Martin’s example is worth its weight in gold. It is a story of suffering and triumph over suffering. It is a story of perseverance, and it is as story of people who reached out to him with love and him responding. It takes courage to hope or to trust, and it takes tremendous character to persevere. When Martin stuck with his dream we all became a bit better for it. The journey is not over, but I believe he now knows something about himself and life that is worth knowing. It is not where you start but how you finish, and if you stick to your dream miracles do sometimes happen. I pray that Martin stays with his game plan and reaches out to others who need his help. It is a lot to carry but I think he can do it.

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