Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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Maseru

Kick4Life’s soccer for social change

Business

…how a club is touching more than the soccer element of young people’s live

Chris Theko

It has made difference in the lives of so many youths beyond just giving them a chance to play the game they love, but has also presented for them an opportunity to enhance their skills through a tertiary education while at it. This is Kick4Life a football club that is more than just that, thus epitomizing the notion of football for social change.

“We are an NGO that operates in the form of a football club, ours is not mainly to compete against football clubs such as your Matlama, Linare and others. We are here to expose opportunities to young people using football aspects such as coaching, administration, life skills and playing and other aspects that are actually addressing social change” says Kick4Life National Director, Motlatsi Nkhahle.

However, football is at the heart of the organization and never ceases to impress with its ability to make a difference and foster change.

“Our vision as an organization is to ensure that every child in Lesotho has equal opportunity to reach their potential. 

“We don’t decide for our participants as to what their potential is but we just say come to Kick4Life, come enjoy this football game and find what actually lights your fire and let’s see if we can actually help you go there,” Nkhahle explains. 

More than just a football club, Kick4life is a self-financing model, running a small inn, restaurant and conferencing that cover costs of the academy. 

Kick4Life was founded in 2007 by two brothers from the United Kingdom Pete and Steve Flaming. The brothers had just gone on a mission of dribbling a soccer ball for ten days across Malawi for 250 miles as a way to raise funds for a charitable organization in Malawi in 2005.

From their intense experience they felt they wanted to do more and use football as a game changer, not just as a game but as a force for social change.

“So the Flaming brothers opted for Lesotho as the country of choice because back in 2005 we were the second highest in terms of the HIV prevalence, poverty and other social ills that they felt could be addressed using football. The other advantage was that people in Lesotho already love football which was an easy way to lure the young people,” Nkhahle remembers. 

The organization was registered in 2006, and in 2007 got funding from the Vodafone Foundation to launch health education and HIV testing programs.

From 2007 it operated from a rented space in old Europa Maseru. However, things were to change for the better with the advancing of the 2010 soccer world Cup that was in South Africa. 

Because this was the first time the world cup was to be staged in Africa, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) decided that there had to be a legacy left behind.

This prompted the movement of Football for Hope, where infrastructural development had already been established in 20 centers across Africa with three in South Africa to consider Lesotho as well.

Nkhahle says they realized from the establishment that donors come and go hence they had to be self-reliant in order to keep their programs running. As means to increase their fundraising efforts, K4L then registered in Kick4Life USA in 2012. 

“It was also good for the foundation because later on when we started the academy and sent our first cohort of first Senate Letsie then Lesia Thetsane and Mako Makoanyane over to the USA, pursue an education while kicking the ball,” he says.

In 2014 the football club which had been called Kick4Life for years was rebranded to and called Kick4Life Football Club. This was also after it had been promoted to the premier league for the first time since its foundation.

This was the same year that the No7 hotel was launched together with the restaurant and conferencing. The businesses are said to have been founded as another way of answering the sustainability challenge to have their programs running. 

The academy is mainly focused on three pillars, academics, football and character.

Letsie became the first woman from Lesotho to gain a soccer and academic scholarship when she was awarded a place at the Lewis & Clark Community College in Illinois, USA. She spent three years kicking the ball while also enhancing her skills. 

The organization has since registered under Kick4life UK which is another fundraising arm that has seen a number of European nationals raise funds for the K4L programs and every three years they actually come spend time at the premises. 

“Every two or three years we have groups of Europeans who come to Lesotho to visit us, they fund raise money for us, they come to Lesotho to deliver the funds and also look at the work we do while interacting with our programs,” said the director. 

As of 2018 K4L had 21 youth on full scholarships at secondary schools, in Lesotho, in South Africa and in USA while some have already graduated. 

In recognition of the good work it does, Kick4Life was recently nominated for the Laureus Sport Award 2022 in the category of Sport for Good Award in recognition of the work they have been doing in using sport for social change. 

Under Kick4Life there are a number of operations from youth to support and training. There are community programs, football club and academy social enterprises which are the business that support the financial demands of the various programs.

Other programmes include Good Health and Wellbeing through sport which deals with boys and girls aged 13 to 19 which birthed other programs such Girls United (for girls) and Champions United (for boys) that tackles gender based violence. 

The football club is what drives the organisation’s identity as a department that oversees all the operations. Kick4Life has two senior teams, the male’s team playing in the premier league and the female team competing in the super league with own development structures feeding into the main teams. 

Since its promotion onto the premier league in 2014, Kick4Life has given teams a run for their money consistently finishing among the top-8 clubs of the topflight soccer.

The four teams have seen players receiving national team call ups the most in 2021 when 20 calls ups were received by the club. 

They have built relations with other academies globally such as Wakadaky academy from Japan and other football clubs such as Southampton from England.

The academy has produced world class players who have shown good character and discipline such as CAF champions league winner Boitumelo Rabale, Letsie, and Mako and Lesia to name a few.

Kick4Life works with big organizations such as FIFA which is one their funding partners. Other NGOs across the world have partnered with the organization to assist them in ways of increasing their fundraising initiatives. 

Through their methods they have reached over 260 000 youths with health education and life skills coaching, over 25 000 provided with HIV testing and counseling, 1000 youth have learned how to read and write. 300 plus jobs have been created, 24 youths with scholarships in Lesotho while seven have progressed to fully funded scholarships in USA with the aim to send at least four students to either USA or Canada.     

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