Former gangsters find a little peace at sport sanctuary

Louise-Hazel-pic-01“It’s heartbreaking that they’ve been burgled when they don’t have anything to steal.”

Former GB heptathlete Louise Hazel sees for herself the plight of unemployed mother, Funeka, and her two daughters who live in poverty in Cape Town.

“They live in a shack with seven other people, with no locks, have been burgled countless times but they don’t have anything.”

The frustration felt by the 2010 Commonwealth Games heptathlon champion is clear as she chats to me having just returned from South Africa where she features in a BT Sport Supporters Club documentary.

A little peace
Louise met some of those benefiting from Fight for Peace, a charity that provides a safe haven through sport for youth communities in gang areas, including Funeka’s daughters Bongiwe and Snazo.

Louise-Hazel-pic-09Heading to the Golden Stars boxing gym with the sisters, the importance of the charity in these young girls’ lives is clear.

A place of respite away from the problems of their mother’s unemployment, the theft of their minimal possessions, and the violence of neighbours, it is only here the girls feel liberated, safe for at least a short while and gain vital confidence by taking up sport.

Two guys
Louise also follows the stories of two guys she met in Nyanga, the so-called murder capital of Cape Town.

Gang member Zukile was approached by Blaze who wanted ammunition – “You can only imagine what for,” says Louise – but Zukile took him to the gym instead.

Blaze returned and again Zukile took him to the gym.

“By distracting him and working with each other and realising that they were the kids getting killed and causing most of the trouble,” Louise explains, “they realised the impact was on their own generation of youngsters and recognised their impact on the wider community.”

A little perspective
Having retired from athletics at the end of 2013, I ask Louise if the sometimes difficult transition from athlete to ‘real life’ is somewhat put in perspective by such a trip.

“Yes 100%. Sport is a luxury. To compete for your country and get paid as a professional athlete, it’s very fortunate as a career.

“Retiring from sport, or however you want to call it, is as hard or as easy as you want to make it. Sometimes we don’t know we’re born.”

The documentary ‘Fighting For Peace with Louise Hazel’ premiered on BT Sport 2 on 13 December 2014.

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For more inspiring videos head to our playlist at Sports Liberated TV.

Author: Jo Gunston

Roving blogging superfan shares behind the scenes stories of her sports life and the best of those from like-minded souls.

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