Oasis Founder Clifford Martinus has a contagious passion for sport and community. This is evident in the work done at Oasis Place with his belief that the connection to a team, fair play and sport can support an individual in overcoming the odds, both personal and social. This South African non-profit creates positive personal development opportunities for youth from marginalised backgrounds.
Many of those have encountered or are affected by some form of homelessness, unemployment, alcoholism, drug abuse, HIV, gangsterism, crime and poverty. The effective impact of Oasis not only alleviates this cycle of violence and trauma; but installs social values and purpose.
This year the Homeless World Cup took place in Cardiff Wales. The annual tournament unites street football programmes from around the globe; thus affording every player the opportunity to represent their respective nation with pride and passion. The tournament celebrates the work done by the Homeless World Cup Foundation and their worldwide national partners in attaining their mutual goal of seeking a better future for the homeless through football.
Team SA joined almost 50 countries for the week-long football festival in July. Oasis is responsible for Team SA from team selection to trip organization. Players from all five provinces were included. The coaches work hard, both on and off the pitch. Players are guided to control tempers and overcome challenges, such as substance abuse. The aim is to assist them in choosing a better future.
As Clifford says, it is important for the community to know change is possible and lives can be changed through sport. The team of 8 enjoyed a fitting send off with The Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Minister of Sport and Cultural Affairs and the Minister of Social Development. The excitement was high as this was the first time travelling overseas for most of the team.
The team played fourteen matches over the week. Matches are four-a-side and last 15 minutes with two halves of seven and a half minutes each. They won all their matches, bar one in the group stages. They lost against Chile in the quarter finals. They did however finish the tournament with a win for the 7th place.
More importantly are the changed lives, opened doors and expanded horizons. This installs a never give up attitude, as seen here in a short Instagram video of Team South Africa’s Sibusiso Dyatyi. Oasis former Homeless World Cup player, Dillon Fletcher, aptly commented that it allows you to see that people from other countries are suffering similar problems.
Oasis offers a variety of programmes to inspire change. One such is the Football 3, a daily community after school programme. Three halves, no referees, Football 3 is a different way to play. The focus is on fair play, equality, and teamwork. In mixed-gender teams, players collectively decide on the rules before each game and then reflect on their behavior after each game. Points are awarded for goals scored and acts of fair play. The players are encouraged to resolve conflicts among themselves through dialogue and compromise; as there are no referees.
Another initiative is the 20/20 Street Programme, an intervention and encouragement programme for school drop outs between the ages of 17 and 25. Football creates a sense of awareness and team-spirit. Conflict management ensures non-violence, fair play and a positive attitude. The reward of being a lasting member is being part of the South African Homeless Street Football league.
Oasis has a girls’ team inside their OASIS Football Club too. Girls and young women are welcomed and considered as possible successful future coaches, referees and administrators. Oasis recently held a schools girls tournament to highlight South Africa’s national women’s team taking part in the FIFA women’s World Cup and to engage girls in sport.
The work done by Oasis is not only important, but vital. It creates a safe place for children to play in the community and empowers them with the skills they need to flourish both on and off the pitch. Skills that in turn build dignity; essential as without it, identity is erased. As is the World Cup annual tournament’s aim to challenge society’s perception of homelessness by showcasing the human side thereof. It has a far reaching impact, affecting those living in inadequate and unsafe housing too; this making the breakdown of stereotypes even more important.
Welsh actor Michael Sheen, who had a hands-on role in the World cup, describes it as follows; “For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Homeless World Cup, and I am imagining that is many of you, I promise you that it is a sporting spectacle that is quite unlike any other. It is of course a football tournament, but it is one that is far more than simply a game. It changes lives for the better. I have seen it happen and it is my fervent hope that this year’s tournament will provide many more opportunities for its transformative effects to be experienced by those who need it most long after the final whistle is blown.”
In fact the work done by Oasis and at the Homeless World Cup remind of the excerpt, “That it is every human’s life work: to construct an identity bit by bit, to walk a path step by step, to live a life that is worthy of something higher, lighter, more fulfilling, and maybe even everlasting.”