Namibia
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Babylon starlet chases football dream

Albertina Afrikaaner is absolutely football crazy.

Commonly known as Betty by her football mates and loved ones, the 17-year-old has captured the imagination and adoration of those who watch her showcase breath-taking skill and passion for the game on a makeshift dusty football field in Windhoek’s Babylon informal settlement.

She plays against boys her age and older, getting the type of rugged education and well-trodden path of the beautiful game associated with some of the world’s biggest stars.

“I love football and dancing because it keeps me fit and makes me calm. I started playing football when I was very young,” she said.

Afrikaaner wants to start playing structured football and hopes that scouts will come out to see her in action on the uneven and rocky clearing the settlement’s residents use for their leisure.

The dusty venue is Afrikaaner’s favourite spot, especially after school every Friday when she kickstarts her weekend with a kick-about with her friends.

As fun as that is, Afrikaaner believes the time has come to transition into organised football and begin chasing her dream of representing her country.

David Hailume, who coaches a boys’ team from the same settlement, was impressed by Afrikaaner’s ability from the moment he spotted her playing as the only girl among a group of boys over two years ago.

“She has potential. She is a fast runner and very skilful with the ball. I see a bright future for her in this sport,” Hailume said.

She can play in midfield or further forward where here blistering pace while maintaining control of rapidly bouncing ball is a sight to behold.

“I grew up with boys, maybe that’s why I do not have girl friends she said. They don’t treat me like a girl. They just play normal like with other boys. I like that,” Afrikaaner says of her mates.

The youngest of two, she was raised by her grandmother since age three following the death of her mother.

Her older brother Dennis Nangolo (21) is proud of his sister and has high hopes for her.

“You can see it in the way she plays and how she barely stops talking about it,” says

Football offers Afrikaaner a momentary reprieve from the daily hardships of their environment. That is why Nangolo wants the best for his sister, which is to excel academically and at sport as that will ensure she has more than one option to better her life.

“It will be great if she gets placement at a school hostel to also avoid peer pressure,” he said.

“Ten relatives live in my grandma’s shack and we share bedrooms. At times we have no food and no electricity either. It would be great if she gets assistance to get school placement somewhere where she can focus on her hobbies and education,” Nangolo said.

The big dreaming Afrikaaner draws inspiration from professional football abroad, where she aspires to play someday.

“I enjoy watching Liverpool team at public venues since we have no television at home. I make sure never to miss watching the games when my favourite football team is playing. My favourite football player is [retired ex-Liverpool captain] Steven Gerrard.”

Meanwhile, Hailume said Babylon Afrikaaner is one of many gifted children who are passionate about sports, specifically football.

These children need help to keep them of the streets and find opportunities to improve their lives.

“They need training, appropriate soccer boots, as some play bare foot or with shoes not for soccer,” Hailume said.

“They also need outfits and sponsorships to host proper matches to give them experience of a real match, since they only play amongst each other in a form of exercising and not competition,” he continued.

“I believe by hosting some football matches, it will motivate them to do better in life and also keep them off the streets to focus on positive things,” Hailume said.