From a feared gangster to club owner, that’s a remarkable life turn for Shaun ‘Strokes’ Govender, whose team is participating at this year’s Discovery Walter Sisulu Soccer Challenge.
For the old heads of Eldorado Park, south of Johannesburg, the name ‘Strokes’ would instantly strike fear, but for the new generation it’s a name that brings hope, through the football team that’s a marvel to watch at the tournament.
A reformed gangster, Govender is now using the beautiful game – the game of millions, to contribute positively to the community.
After all, football is a game that changes lives and the people that attend or are associated with the tournament can attest to this.
“Strokes was my gangster name… I’m a reformed gangster,” admits Govender.
While the man was responsible for the drugs that went around the community putting paid to the dreams of the youth years ago, football has changed things for the better.
In fact, what do Keanu Cupido, Joshua Sauls and Sheldon van Wyk have in common?
These are players from the Discovery Walter Sisulu Soccer Challenge and played in the course of Strokes and went on to turn professional.
Cupido is now with Cape Town City and has represented the country at national level for the junior teams.
Van Wyk and Sauls have featured for Maritzburg United and Swallows FC respecticely.
From killing dreams through peddling drugs to producing players that are in the Premier Soccer League, GladAfrica Championship and ABC Motsepe League, Govender now has a purpose and the community of Eldos has rallied behind him and can now proudly call him one of their own.
“I saw that life (of gangsterism) won’t benefit me and I said to myself, ‘let me change other people’s lives’ especially the youngsters,” continues Govender.
“We are from a community where you find drugs… and all the social ills. I said let me make a change. I made a lot of mistakes in my life, so let me make a difference in someone’s life.”
Since forming the team in 2006, they have enjoyed some success by winning the Steven Pienaar Tournament a couple of times with coach Nathan Davies the driving force and many other tournaments.
Naturally, Govender is looking to step up his game and wants more players from his team in the topflight of SA football, but first they have to test themselves against the best in the Discovery Walter Sisulu Soccer Challenge.
Winning this tournament is easier said than done, but for Strokes competing in the tournament means a lot more than the first prize.
“I’ve been here at Discovery for 11 years… my vision and objective, from Eldorado Park with all the negativity, I’d like to put 10 players in the PSL in ten years’ time,” says a hopeful Govender.
“This year I’m bringing youngsters to Discovery. I’m doing like the Germans do, that when they approach the World Cup they bring in 17-year-olds (to their national team). I’m not here to win the tournament and I’m not after the R100 000 (prize money).
“I’m here to make a difference. Maybe four guys from Strokes will make it to the PSL.”
That’s some drive from someone who’s self-employed and selling food, as well as clothes, from his home.
“I run the team out of my pocket and I even save money five months from the start of Discovery to make things possible for the community of Eldorado Park.
“I’m selling clothes and food from my house. The community knows me and support me. I’m grateful. I was the first coloured team to participate in Discovery for many years. I look out for Discovery every year… it’s one of my favourite tournaments,” he says.
Strokes FC, however, are not focused entirely on Eldos. There’s more to this team than meets the eye, considering that some of its players are from other areas, especially in Soweto, which is home to the Discovery Walter Sisulu Soccer Challenge.
One of the most exciting players in the team is Gabriel Thomas, a goalkeeper.
They say keepers are “crazy” and when it’s time for showboating or “Happy Hour” as the commentators in the Discovery Walter Sisulu Soccer Challenge would refer to it, Thomas joins in the party.
“That’s why the fans come in their numbers. It’s good when teams give the fans the ‘Happy Hour,'” Thomas reckons.
On a more serious note, Thomas is making his way up from the ABC Motsepe League, where he turns out for Gauteng side, Alexandra Black Aces.
“I’ll see where God leads me… I want to play overseas. If you desire to play at the top, it will happen,” Thomas adds.
To stay updated on the tournament, follow Discovery Walter Sisulu Soccer Challenge 2019 on Facebook and use the hashtag #DWSSC19 across platforms to follow all the action.
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