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Dixon pitches in to help develop young soccer stars

Local Hero nominee’s initiative gives more than 150 kids a chance

Having played in and coached a number of South African professional soccer teams during his illustrious career, it only stood to reason that Nigel Dixon would dedicate most of his adult life to football development.
Dixon, a former Bush Bucks goalkeeper and coach, is the technical director of the East London-based Bush Bucks All Stars sports development programme, which mentors more than 150 young aspiring footballers from across the province.
He has been nominated as a Daily Dispatch/Johnson & Johnson initiative Local Hero.
The former teacher and Cape Town Santos coach began his playing career at Bush Bucks in 1988, where he became the team’s assistant coach 10 years later, and went on to become full-time coach, where he doubled as team manager between 1999 and 2006.
He established the development programme in 2014.
Before venturing into the youth football development programme, Dixon enjoyed a stint as Cape Town Santos coach between 2009 and 2014. Dixon’s development programme is based at East London’s Bunkers Hill sport grounds.
Teams play in the under 11, 13, 15, 17 and 20 divisions.
Some of his players have been sent for trials with top South African teams such as Ajax Cape Town and Wits University, while another is set to soon enrol at a university in Chicago in America.
The development programme’s under 20 team, Dixon said, was a feeder for a local team playing in the country’s third tier league, the Motsepe League.
His current U17 side, which have played together since U13 level, only lost once in the past four soccer seasons at the Bunkers Hill West local football association.
Dixon also helps develop children between the ages of four and six.“In the programme we are all about the children.“We do holistic development and we use football as a tool, with the main objective being to produce balanced children who are successful, disciplined and positive thinking, and who will contribute positively to society,” he told the Dispatch.A number of experts in their fields are roped in to teach the youngsters life values and to provide financial guidance.Education is key in the development programme.At the end of every school term, the youngsters have to produce their school report scorecards, “with those found to be lagging behind in their studies, suspended from all football related activities until they have improved on their school grades”, Dixon said.“As a former teacher, we keep a very close watch on how they perform in their studies.“This is because we believe that their development must be balanced.“They cannot only excel in football, but must do so in their academic life as well.”He said even though they sometimes struggled financially to maintain the programme, the reward of seeing smiling youngsters was worth it.Dixon was nominated as a local hero candidate by one of the academy’s coaches, Randall van Heerden, who said Dixon had made great strides in improving soccer in the region.“He is always on top in spotting talent and tries to make a difference in many junior or youth footballer’s life, irrespective of gender.“He has been sponsoring many players with boots when he sees them in need of gear.“He is also a great motivation to many players in terms of football development and academic needs.”Local Heroes is a proud initiative of the Daily Dispatch and Johnson & Johnson...

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