Fire Fighters; a spark that ignites young talent
Fire Fighters Football Club from Khayelitsha was formed in 1998 to try and take children off the streets, but ended up producing professional football players.
The club has divisions from the u/11s to u/18s, and is an affiliate of the Mandela Park Local Football Association.
Founder Mandla Solontsi, aka “Power” said he used to be a player himself while growing up and saw the need to start a soccer team in his area to take children off the streets.
“Since I was a player myself, to keep myself fit I would jog around the area and would see a lot of boys hanging in street corners smoking drugs. I invited them to join me, which is how the club started,” said Solontsi.
He said they are dedicated to the development of young soccer players, creating opportunities and experiences on and off the field that inspire and enable them to reach their full potential as athletes, students and future leaders.
“Off the field, we encourage them to focus on the academics, in case they don’t make it in soccer ... They have something to fall back on,” said Solontsi.
He said the community has always been very supportive to what they were trying to achieve, because they could see the positive results.
Solontsi said some of his players have gone to play soccer professionally, like Bulelani Ndungane, who plays for Bloemfontein Celtics and Siyabulela Mrawu, playing for Witbank Spurs while those who did not make it are academics.
Former player Mrawu said he learnt a lot from the club about soccer and that being part of the team saved him from a lot of bad things happening in his community.
“I don’t remember the year I joined the team, I was very young, but joining helped me stay away from drugs and gangsterism. The club changed a lot of us because some of us are able to provide for our families now,” he said. said he gets emotional whenever he talks about Fire Fighters, because it made him the person he is today.