South Africa: Masiphumelele Torn After Soccer Kids Lose Ground to Emergency Housing


A fire ravaged the informal settlement in Masiphumelele on 17 December 2020 leaving 4,000 people displaced. The tragedy was declared a local disaster and temporary housing units have been built on the only remaining soccer field in the area. The move has torn the community apart, leaving young people devastated without a pitch.

It's a five-minute walk to get to the informal training soccer fields in Masiphumelele. The narrow, sandy footpath runs between low bushes and scruffy tufts of grass and the whistles and shouts of children can be heard long before the path reveals several large clearings where teams hold their daily training sessions.

Aubrey Batala, soccer coach and youth co-ordinator is concerned that the only remaining field in Masiphumelele, which is being used for the temporary housing of fire victims, will not be returned to youth in the community who are in desperate need of recreational spaces.(Photo: Leila Dougan)

Aubrey Batala (62) is a veteran soccer coach in the area. As soon as the school bells ring, groups of kids in their school uniform rush to his home asking about their after-school training. "They call me Da Aubs," he says laughing. "They don't call me coach, it's...

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