Prison’s winning outfit
All football clubs release players‚ but when Helderstroom FC do so, it takes on a whole new meaning.
That’s because they are the team representing Helderstroom Correctional Service Prison just outside Caledon in the Western Cape‚ who‚ quite remarkably‚ have just won the Safa-Overberg region’s SAB fourth division League.
Helderstroom‚ comprised of prisoners and a few prison officials‚ will contest the provincial playoffs to the semi-professional ABC Motsepe League (third division) in Beaufort West on June 22 and 23.
They finished 10 points clear of the second-placed team‚ who were the region’s South African Police Services (SAPS) side‚ Police FC.
“It’s like a derby. Very fair‚ but‚ shew‚ it’s crucial‚” Tankiso Modipa‚ president of the South African Football Association’s Overberg region said when Helderstroom met Police FC in his league.
Helderstroom’s coach‚ Bhamjee Gontsana, 45, was an amateur player in the Cape.
He works at the prison’s sport and recreation department.
“We started the team about three years back playing in the LFA [Local Football Association] for one season‚” he said.
“We topped the log‚ went to the playoffs and won‚ and played in the SAB League the last season [2017-18].
“We came second in our first season in the SAB.
“In our second season‚ this past campaign‚ we were crowned champions with two or three games to go.
“The team consists mostly of prisoners. There are two prison staff officials who play with the offenders.”
Gontsana said not all prisoners at Helderstroom could qualify to play for the team – participation was incentivebased on good behaviour‚ but also did take into account length of sentences.
Helderstroom‚ of course‚ have a unique transfer system for a football club.
“I must thank the Safa-Overberg executive‚ especially Mr Modipa,” said Gontsana.
“He was the one who sent me to Pretoria to attend a B-licence coaching course.
“When I came back we went to prisons in the Western Cape to look for players‚ and transferred them to Helderstroom.
“I phoned those prisons and said they should organise a match to play. Then I would go and scout at those matches. We got players from Drakenstein Prison in Paarl‚ some of them are from Pollsmoor.”
Gontsana said prison guards accompanied the team to away matches – home games were played at a ground just outside the prison.
Modipa‚ a policeman‚ took a special interest in including Helderstroom in his region’s leagues.
“When they started in the LFA I used to encourage them because Bhamjee Gontsana also coached me as a player in about 2005‚” said Modipa.
“I used to assist them at the prison when their officials played‚ because I’m a police officer as well.
“So when I took over the region and Bhamjee said they had a team of prisoners‚ which they wanted to use as a rehabilitation process – because they already had a rugby team playing in their local league – I talked to the LFA to accommodate them.
“We just checked the precautionary measures on security. But the prison assured me their team went around the Western Cape playing matches‚ and they would provide their own security.”
He said the Helderstroom players were the most disciplined in the entire league.