Lucky Girls FC founder and coach, Solwethu Gonya, believes the first change that needs to be made for women’s football to develop in Africa, is to change the mindsets of communities who still believe that sport is not for women.

Gonya has taken up the challenge by investing his time and finances to help young girls in Bot Rivier in the Western Cape pursue their sporting dreams.

The community is affected by crime and drugs, and Gonya is aware of the struggles the youth face as he was in a similar situation growing up in the Eastern Cape.

Sport kept him on the right path, and he hopes it will also help the kids in his team achieve a better future.

But, running a club has come with many challenges and with the lack of sponsorships, Gonya is pleading for assistance.

Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Gonya gives insight into what keeps him motivated despite the list of struggles he faces daily. 

Solwethu, thank you for taking time out to chat! Where does your passion for sport comes from?

Firstly, I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity, I really appreciate it.

“I was always involved in sport because I grew up in a rural area where there was a lot of crime and social ills. I found sport as one of the things that could save me.” – Lucky Girls FC founder and coach, Solwethu Gonya on his life growing up.

My passion for sport comes from way back when I was younger. I was always involved in sport because I grew up in a rural area where there was a lot of crime and social ills. I found sport as one of the things that could save me and teach me the good things that could help me have a better future. 

Please tell us more about your life growing up.

I grew up loving music and sports. The late Mandoza used to inspire me and many more. I did my Primary School at Chizele iDutywa, in the Eastern Cape, and finished High School at Qhayiya High in Hermanus.

Loving sport from a young age made me the man I am now. To tell you the truth, I never got involved in the street life such as taking drugs and drinking alcohol because of sport.

I played rugby and soccer – I really loved those two sports!

You are the founder of Lucky Girls FC. Please tell us about your club.

Lucky Girls Football Club is based in a small town in Bot Rivier, in the Western Cape and we are currently playing in the SAFA Overberg Women’s League.

The club was originally formed in 2018. We started training with 8 girls who were interested in being part of our team at that time. We had to then mix them with boys to make 11 players so that we could play friendlies against the boy’s teams. We won our first friendly game then that’s when all the other girls in my community showed interested in playing for us.

Now we have two ladies’ teams – u13 and u17 and they are playing in the regional league.

What are some of the challenges you face as you try to build a future for the young girls in your team?

I’m facing a lot of challenges. Firstly, we don’t get enough support from our community as many still don’t understand that football is also for women.

Financially we struggle and it is hard to get sponsors since it’s a women’s team.

But, we do get assistance from Beaumont Family Wins and Lucky Point Center that help us with transport when we play league games and need to travel.

Mr Takiso Modipa, the President of SAFA Overberg region, has also helped us with some equipment to train.

Sadly, we still struggle to get a kit. The one that we were using in 2018 and 2019 is small sizes for the players we borrowed the boys’ team. At the moment, we don’t have a kit. 

These struggles prove that the state of football development, especially for females, is at a very low level in the country. How can this be changed?

“We must first start at home and change the mindsets of our parents and families. They must show love and support to these young girls who want to play football or rugby.” – Gonya speaks on changing mindsets of young girls being involved in sporting activities.

There’s a lot of changes that needs to be done not only in South Africa but Africa as a whole. We must first start at home and change the mindsets of our parents and families. They must show love and support to these young girls who want to play football or rugby.

Our associations in Africa must fight to market and women’s sport to make it well-known and ensure that corporates come on board to offer sponsorships.

Also, if they can at least televise two or three games a week of the leagues, that would help because big sponsors would be able to see the hard work being put into women’s sport.

What impact are you hoping to make in your community through your club?

The impact that I am hoping to make is to keep the youth in sport and education because I believe if our youth grows up playing sport, they will be saved from being involved in all the social ills taking place in the community. Both sport and education will motivate them to believe that there is a way for them to have better futures.

I also want to change the mentality of our community members. They must understand that sports aren’t gender-based and everyone can play.

From your players, are there any names that we should be on the lookout for as future national team players?

Yes, I have talented young ladies that I think we will see in the national team. They have a promising future in women’s football.

Lastly, what keeps you motivated? 

The players motivate me to keep on working hard for them. They are hungry for football, they have the talent and have dreams of playing in the national team, which is what I want to help them achieve.