Former professional footballer gives youngsters skills

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Roberto Stemmet and Nazeem Isaacs in front of the center where they equip the young people of Hanover Park through their programs.

No positive role models, no mentoring and no education were the reasons Nazeem Isaacs, a former professional soccer player from Mitchell’s Plain, made the wrong choices when he was just 12 years old.

He is currently uplifting the Hanover Park community and players with his Nazeem Isaacs Upliftment programs. He runs these programs in conjunction with the NPO Youth Impact and Sustainable Solutions (YISS) in Hanover Park to help young people avoid making the same mistakes he made when he was their age.

“In my programs I teach young people that only Allah/God and education can get you out of your predicament. By Allah/God I have been drug free for 26 years after 22 years and the change in my life has come when I turned to Allah/God. To be successful in life, you have to be God-fearing and driven by education, because your talent as a sportsman is a gift from God,” he says.

Growing up in Hanover Park, he played as a 12-year-old central midfielder for the Black Birds, the football team of the late Bobby “Mongrel” April, also known as Ismail April, the leader of the Mongrel gang.

“In our communities, many children play for teams not affiliated with local football associations, in rebel leagues, and it is easy to be drawn into gangsterism and drugs, due to poverty and other problems. I was born in District Six with a golden spoon, my family was quite well off, being business people. We moved to Hanover Park where, at age 12, I smoked my first Mandrax pipe with Bobby Mongrel, thinking it was cool. Having no role models or mentors, I was hooked. At 15 I went to Hartleyvale for a trial in Cape Town City, not arranged but in search of greener pastures. It was there that I met Portugal international Eusebio, also known as Black Panther, who was brought to South Africa by the Mobil Soccer Foundation during the apartheid era.

“Kevin Keegan and Mick Channon, England internationals, also participated in these training clinics. My life changed when Pepe dos Santos took me under his wing. As a coach and mentor, Dos Santos got me a job at the Heerengracht hotel in town, while playing for Park Villa. I was paid R150 a game and in the 80s that was a lot of money. When I was 17, I was supposed to have a trial in Portugal with second division team Moritimor Da Funchal in Madeira. After all travel arrangements were made, I decided not to go abroad due to my drug addiction. And it was a lost opportunity,” he says.

What stood out at this point in his life was that he was spiritually unsound and uneducated.

“My life got out of control and I got hooked while playing for my amateur club, the Melchester Royals, when I was admitted to rehab on three occasions. In 1989/90 I was recruited by a Federation professional league club Berea in Durban and I played for one season, winning the Ohlsson cup which excluded the two Cape Town teams, Battswood and Santos.While I was playing I relapsed, I hit rock bottom and I was close to death.

“I realized there was one thing I hadn’t tried and that was turning to Allah. 26 years later I am still drug free. It is my moral duty to warn our young people/athletes that without being spiritually sound and motivated through education, you will not succeed in any sport. After a professional athletic career, there is life. I hope to make a difference in the lives of the young people of Hanover Park and the surroundings,” he said.

Isaacs embarked on a mission to deliver equipment (soccer balls, bibs and beacons) to struggling clubs in Hanover Park and to organize training clinics for the respective coaches of the five clubs. He is assisted by Roberto Stemmet of YISS who is trying to save lives and careers.

“Anyone willing to help can contact us on our mobile numbers and can also request assistance and will be shortlisted after an assessment,” he says.

  • You can contact Nazeem Isaacs on 073 310 0879 and Roberto Stemmet on 066 415 3950.

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