Dozens of children will surround 28-year-old Asanda Mkiva and 25-year-old Noluvuyo Nkazi Dudumashe as they walk through the Chris Campbell Memorial Field, a soccer complex providing clinics and programs for underprivileged youth in Khayelitsha, South Africa.
"Oh my God, being called left, right and center," Dudumashe said. "They want to come and touch you, hold your hand, walk with you, wherever you go."
Even as they walk around town, they have celebrity status.
"Everyone is calling me. Everyone when I'm outside the field," Mkiva said.
"Maybe just passing by me on weekends or going with your friends, you'll see there are seven kids they want to say 'Hello, Nkazi.' They are following me, coming to my house," she said.
The are the light the moths swarm to on a dark path.
Khayelitsha, the largest township in South Africa, is plagued by alcoholism, drug abuse, disease and hunger. Seventy percent of its residents live in shacks and unemployment is the rule, not the exception. Only a few years ago, Dudumashe and Mkiva were headed down the same dark path as so many of Khayelitsha’s youth. Now, they are leading activities at the field for the thousands of children that trickle in and out of the complex each week.
Along with the other staff members, they have become role models to the youth of Khayelitsha. They are mother and father-figures to the neglected and orphaned children. They are the faces of the field that is slowly changing the dynamics of a community.
Located in the impoverished township of Khayelitsha, the turf field was named after Chris Campbell Jr., a standout soccer player at Franklin and Marshall.
The Franklin and Marshall soccer team had scheduled a trip to Khayelitsha to run a clinic, before Campbell tragically passed away in 2007 from heart complications when he was 21.
But Campbell's death led to the birth of the CTC Ten Foundation, which turned the one-time visit into a long-term mission. Led by his family, friends and teammates, CTC Ten raised $500,000 for the construction of the multi-purpose Chris Campbell Memorial Field, which was completed in December 2008. CTC Ten has since partnered with NGO AMANDLA EduFootball to help manage the facility and provide salaries for the staff members, field interns and volunteer referees in Khayelitsha.
Each week, thousands will participate in soccer clinics, leagues and tournaments. But the multi-purpose facility extends far beyond soccer. There is a strong focus on academics, HIV-AIDS education and lifestyle education.
"They love to be here all the time, 24/7," said Mkiva, who has been working with CTC Ten since 2007. "They love to see the field come with the change to their lives."
For the youth of Khayelitsha, the field has become a safe haven. In a township filled with crime and poverty, the field has gone unharmed. A safety bubble of sport. Since its establishment, crime in Khayelitsha has dropped 28 percent, according to Lingulethu West Police Station.
"In this community, you wake up, go to school, come back home, stay around and do nothing," said Dudumashe, the only native female employee. "There's this space for them where they can stay around after school and play soccer."
For Mkiva and Dudumashe, the Chris Campbell Memorial Field is offering a second chance.
"Now I do have a cause in life that I didn't have," Dudumashe said. "Now I know what I want, I know where I'm going with all of the trials and tribulations that I've been through."
"When I'm here, I don't think about what happens at home," Mkiva said. "I just go out there and do what I have to do with the kids."
Asanda Mkiva never met his father. His mother was murdered 16 years ago. Like most of the youth in Khayelitsha, he lacked guidance as a child and was headed for a dead end.
"I was involved in the drugs, in the alcohol abuse, and all that stuff," Mkiva said. "When I was young, no one told me how to go, which way I must take."
And then he found the field.
Mkiva was part of the first batch of volunteers to show interest in helping out with the CTC Ten Foundation in 2007. Of the 12 Khayelitsha men, he was the quietest.
"These were your average – I wouldn't say gangsters – but your average Khayelitsha punks. But they expressed an interest in helping out the community," said Ryan McGonigle, Campbell's teammate and close friend at Franklin and Marshall, who spent over three years in Khayelitsha working at the field.
The men came up with several ideas that helped launch the program. This included the highly successful Crime Prevention League, which continues to provide an alternative to the Khayelitsha night life for high risk teens and young adults.
The field saw a rise in popularity following its opening and attendance started increasing. In 2009, it was visited by David Beckham. A year later, Michelle Obama visited when South Africa hosted the World Cup in 2010.
Despite the field's immediate success, however, many of the men started dropping off. Some were let go because of alcohol and drug problems. Others began focusing instead on a tourism company.
"It was difficult in a way. They are my friends," Mkiva said. "But I wanted to do this. I told myself 'this is the opportunity in my life.' So why should I throw it away?"
Mkiva kept showing up.
"He may not have been the smartest guy in the building and may not have been the most proactive guy in the meetings," McGonigle said, "but he was always there. He was always interested in trying to improve himself."
Slowly, Mkiva developed into the leader of the field. He started going to counseling to address some issues of his past. He went through numerous educational programs, including courses on first aid and computers. Now, he is running programs for hundreds of children on a weekly basis.
"The field has kind of become Asanda in a lot of ways," McGonigle said. "You can just see from the way he deals with kids. They all treat him like he is a dad."
"When they see me, they see their role model," Mkiva said. "They see their Messi."
Despite remaining quiet as a leader, he communicates with the orphaned and neglected children who often refuse to talk about their problems with their parents.
"I've never seen Asanda yell at one kid," Dudumashe said. "He is just a sweet guy. Just a sweet person. He always has a smile on his face."
Mkiva can relate to the many children that grow up without parents.
"You grow up without parents, no one telling you 'don't do this, do that, go to school, go study.' All that stuff," Mkiva said. "Maybe you can give them direction. I think that's the most powerful thing for me, watching what I've been doing for the kids because if I see they are going the wrong way, I will come to them and tell them."
Noluvuyo Dudumashe started volunteering in March 2010, after she followed Mkiva and his friends into the stadium as they were setting up for the Crime Prevention League.
When she began, there were fewer than 20 girls involved with the program, but that number has increased tenfold. Singlehandedly, Dudumashe has driven girls to the field.
"The girls just see her as such a role model because you don't get a lot of women out there on the soccer field," said CTC Ten intern Lauren Bader, who completed her thesis on "Football and Community Building in East Africa" in 2011 at the University of Colorado.
In many ways, Dudumashe has become the voice of the field, communicating with the children and their parents.
"She is the most vocal and best speaker as far as the facility," McGonigle said. "If there's an issue with someone that comes from the field, she talks to them. If there's a parent, she talks to them. Any girls that come to the field, they talk to Nkazi. We probably wouldn't have a girls program if Nkazi wasn't there."
Dudumashe provides guidance to the children who are often ignored and neglected by their parents.
"They do have mothers, but their mothers, they don't have parenting skills," Dudumashe said. "Either they don't know how to, or they ignore the situation, or they just don't care."
Her advice is particularly valuable to the girls, who deal with many of the same problems that Dudumashe suffered through as a teenager.
"I did all of the things that the youth are doing here in Cape Town, Khayelitsha when they have nothing to do," she said. "All the scary crazy things. I've done those things."
Dudumashe talked about one instance where she took a 14-year-old girl into her home, after discovering she was being physically abused.
"She left home for the whole weekend," Dudumashe said. "I thought I should go and keep her safe. I didn't want her sleeping around with boys. At the end of the day she might have five or six boyfriends."
After speaking to the girl's parents, Dudumashe discovered that "she wanted to go back home, but she was scared."
It was a situation that Dudumashe was all too familiar with. Dudumashe once ran away from her parents for the weekend while she was still in school.
"I was just hanging around with friends, drinking with boyfriends and doing all the crazy stuff," Dudumashe said. "It ended up being Monday without me coming back home and I was scared to go back because I knew I was going to get yelled at."
To cover up the truth, Dudumashe told her mother she was at the hospital.
"I've been there, I've done those things," Dudumashe said. "The young girls, they just don't think -- they just do. Just for fun because they're friends are doing it. Maybe their parents don't care, so nobody is going to ask them."
Soccer has always been a way of life in Khayelitsha.
"We do have rugby and cricket," Dudumashe said, "but with the black community, it is soccer."
With or without the field, they still find a way to play their favorite sport.
"Disgusting dogs running around. Kids just playing in the streets all day, making soccer balls out of plastic bags," McGonigle said.
But in the past four years, the meaning of soccer has changed. Before, playing soccer was a temporary escape from the harsh realities of Khayelitsha. Now, it is symbol of hope.
The children are becoming disciplined, on and off the field.
"The facility has been changing a lot of people's lives," Mkiva said. "The kids are more focused in school."
Some children maintain their goal of playing soccer professionally, while others are hoping to become the next Asanda, or the next Nkazi.
"Every kid here, he wants to be a futbol player. For them to come here for the field, it changes a lot of mindsets to them so that in life, they can play sports, any sport," Mkiva said. "Not just like me – sitting on a corner, doing nothing, smoking, doing all of those bad things."
Last July, a group of seven Khayelitsha children traveled to Berlin, Germany for two weeks to compete in the 2011 PASCH Festival, a co-ed international exchange tournament. The team earned the rights to represent South Africa after winning the PASCH Tournament in December 2010 at the Chris Campbell Memorial Field, despite the vast majority of the children playing without cleats. The seven children, along with Dudumashe and AMANDLA employee Annika Beste, also attended the opening match of the 2011 Women’s World Cup where Germany defeated Canada 2-1 at Olympic Stadium.
“You have to make examples that they see,” Dudumashe said. “Some of them, they think to themselves ‘Okay, I’ll just come to the field and play soccer and this is where it’s going to end.’”
Dudumashe’s travels did not end in Berlin. In January, Dudumashe attended a Youth Leadership Camp in Qatar alongside 29 youth leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa and Palestinian Territories who work with grassroots Sports for Development and Peace projects like AMANDLA EduFootball. She is currently in the United States and earlier this morning spoke about the issues facing women in the post-apartheid era at Dickinson. She will speak at Gettysburg tomorrow and Franklin and Marshall on Thursday.
“If you come to the field – or not to the field even – [if you] just participate fully in whatever that you do. With your schoolwork, with your family, with everything you do,” Dudumashe said. “Just give it your best. You don’t know what lies ahead.”
Mkiva and Dudumashe have gained a new sense of purpose since they stepped foot on the Chris Campbell Memorial Field. They hope the youth of Khayelitsha will follow in their footsteps.
Popular Stories On ThePostGame:
-- Train Smarter: The Truth About Swiss Balls
-- The Five Toughest Races In The World
-- Five Ways To Make Your Workout Less Boring
-- Adventure Races Sweeping The Nation