She’s a Grassroot Soccer Coach in Khayelitsha, South Africa, one of the largest townships outside Cape Town. The environment can be tough, with a high rate of crime, and, in particular, violence against women and girls is a major concern. Athi loves soccer, and is a defender for RV United, Grassroot Soccer's women's club team.
It is hard, [living in Khayelitsha], especially as a young girl.
Being a lesbian has made it even harder.
I used to pretend I was a boy so I could play football. Then in high school I had to wear a skirt uniform and some of my teammates saw me.
They laughed when I came to practice that night... I had to pretend I didn't care.
They would say I wasn't strong enough to play, but I put a lot of boys on the bench. It wasn't easy, though, because then they stopped hanging out with me.
Athi became a Grassroot Soccer Coach in 2013. After a tough screening process, she went through Coach Training in how to deliver the GRS curriculum while being a role model to her participants.
I am too busy for risky behaviours, I train the whole week. On the weekends I don’t have time to go out. I think when someone is in sport they will be more responsible. Before, I wasn’t really aware about HIV and how it can affect everyone around you.
It keeps [the girls] active and helps for their health. Most of the kids are not active otherwise. When kids are more in sport they make better choices.
I have never had a situation where I didn’t know what to do.
Once a kid disclosed that she was HIV positive, but was on treatment so I could help her. I could praise her for having the courage to disclose to me, and praise her for taking treatment. I had to motivate her; tell her she could still live long. She knows that. She can live longer if she looks after her health.
We support each other in and outside the field; the challenges we face back home. Having someone telling you that you can do it, having teammates around giving you support, is a great gift.
Athi has had several great accomplishments since becoming part of Grassroot Soccer. In 2015 Athi and her teammates on RV United won the Coca-Cola Cup, a major league victory. She is currently one of six Young Leaders in our partnership with Cityzens Giving, the charitable initiative of Manchester City FC and its partner clubs.
I am the person in their lives that I never had...that they can trust.
These kids- I don't know what they are doing to me!
Sometimes I leave the house so angry, I used to have a lot of problems with that. When I go with the girls I feel so different.
There are no more challenges in my life because I am thinking about their challenges.
I know my role.
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