Our History

An idea became a project – a project became a dream.


2010 was the year Bernd Steinhage established the Young Bafana Soccer Academy. The vision for this academy grew when Bernd, a native South African – son of a German father and a Namibian mother – decided at the age of 18, to take an extended stay abroad. For seven years, Bernd lived in Germany, Spain and Nicaragua. On his journey, he was a professional footballer and active as a social worker. He also completed a business administration degree in Berlin. After seven years, he returned to his homeland South Africa and decided to follow his passion, developing others by means of education and soccer.

„There were just eight children at the school where everything started. Today we have over 180 – and the cooperation with the schools still exist.“ – Bernd Steinhage

As a result of South Africa hosting the Soccer World Cup in 2010, interest for soccer increased immensely. However, the majority of children could not afford to pay fees for a private club or their transport to practices and matches. All they wanted was to play soccer in a safe and productive learning environment.

Bernd Steinhage


„The thumb rule was that for every 10 paying children, Young Bafana would give a scholarship to a non-paying child. Having realised the positive impact these scholarships had on the children, the programme expanded rapidly.”

In 2012 the first Academy team was established. Township children from the surrounding Lwandle and Nomzamo areas played together with children from socially stable backgrounds. The Soccer Scholarship of Young Bafana (registered as NGO since 2014) covers the provision of the entire necessary equipment, transport for the township players, nutrition after every session, training and matches as well as life skill events.

„In the first year children were forced to practice barefoot. For one simple reason: they had to earn their shoes! Mutual respect and appreciation play a major role at Young Bafana. For many of the children being taught the correct values is not a given due to the daily confrontation with drugs and violence.“

Due to the poor learning conditions, lack of English proficiency and various other daily challenges the children are faced with, Young Bafana inaugurated a compulsory educational programme in January 2014.

Nowadays, YB has four Academy Teams (U12, U14, U16, U18) – all players have to participate in the education programme. This consists of extra lessons in English and Maths as well as life skill workshops. On top of that, Young Bafana offers an individual career consulting for players that are at least 16 years of age.

“Due to the obvious deterioration of the South African education system, an additional education system was initiated in 2014. If a teacher has 50 pupils – all from the local township – crammed into a 25 sqm classroom, very little progress can be expected. Education is the key and the English language is the most important element.”

Since 2013 the academy receives extensive support from interns from around the world, especially USA, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Already more than 130 motivated internationals were voluntarily engaged as coach, teacher or general project support here in South Africa.

„Young Bafana could simply not operate without the support received, both from abroad and within South Africa. In addition to these financial and material donations, we rely on an internship programme to be a vital and important part of our operations.“

Since 2018 Young Bafana is also an officially registered NGO in Germany. The organization mainly consists of former interns who want to continue supporting YB even after their time in South Africa.

In terms of soccer, Young Bafana can look back on a lot of success in the recent years.

After being promoted in the league for three successive years, the U18 team finished fourth in the super league in 2017. Currently, two players of this team are playing for professional soccer clubs in Cape Town. Two other players are participating in a soccar scholarship at a college in the USA (see our success story page). Equally remarkable was the so far biggest success of our U14 Academy team, which became undefeated league champions in their first season on the big pitch (11 vs 11).

„The sporting success story emphasizes the quality of the internal structures as well as the passion shown by coaches and players, both on and off the field. However Young Bafana’s motto of ‘changing lives’ goes further than just soccer – it focusses on the individual development of every player and we strive to achieve this through soccer, education and social development. We want to offer them a better life without drugs and violence.“

In 2022 we made our dream come true… The opening of our very own Young Bafana Arena! You can check out our blog article about the opening event on our success story page.