Bend it like Benjamin

Parkside soccer coach goes extra mile to mentor children through the sport

Local Hero Nominee Benjamin Plaatjies (centre) received the Best Coach trophy from the the Stella Jessie Esbend Football Association. Plaatjies is currently coaching around 100 children the sport of soccer.
Local Hero Nominee Benjamin Plaatjies (centre) received the Best Coach trophy from the the Stella Jessie Esbend Football Association. Plaatjies is currently coaching around 100 children the sport of soccer.

Every time soccer coach Benjamin Plaatijies, 62, from Parkside, receives a shiny new pair of boots, he gives them away.

The Daily Dispatch Local Hero nominee  spends his afternoons on the sports field, mentoring hundreds of children through the sport.

“I’m a size six or a seven, so I give those boots to them and I put on my old takkies. It’s not about what I have,” he said.

Plaatjies started as a junior coach to 15 boys in the under-11 age category for the Pefferville United Football Club in 2010.

This gradually increased through the categories to  the senior teams.

He now coaches about 100 children and young adults up  to 26 years old, including three girls.

“God gives everyone a gift. He gave the kids three-quarters and he gave me a quarter.  It’s the kids who make it 100%.

“You must have a love for kids and patience if you want to do this job, it’s 24/7.

“You must go to school, you must watch the schoolwork, their discipline and on the street how  sometimes some parents don’t even know their kids.

“I know when something is wrong. You have to listen, that’s how I learn more.

“I also go and watch games and listen to what the coaches say to their players.”

Plaatjies first played soccer at age 16, through his father and brothers.

 “It’s a family thing.  I played for 18 years as a striker. I stopped when I was 42, but moved to coaching.”

He worked as a quantity controller and sports coach for years, but relies on the Sassa grant for income, often using it to buy supplies for his team.

“When training is finished and they must go home, they are unhappy because they love this.”

Some of the young boys he started with are still members of the senior teams.

“It’s such a nice feeling. There are some who are with other teams but they still have that discipline, they still remember what I taught them when they were at school.”

Plaatjies used the weekend referee fees for tournaments to teach his teams about financial stability and how to save money.

“I would tell them to save 50 cents a day for the match fare,  so that by Saturday they would have the R2.

“You must teach your children so we have a better generation going forward.”

Plaatjies was asked how he knew his players so well, and he said: “It’s like these are your own kids.”

Practice sessions for each age group take place in the afternoons from Monday to Thursday, with league tournaments over the weekend.

“My day off is Friday. On Saturdays I wake up at 6am and only come home past 5pm.

“Some of them come from houses that have no rules, so you have to teach life skills.”

It was difficult hearing the struggles of his trainees.

“Sometimes it’s bullying or anger problems. If this is the case, I go to the parents and ask what the problems are — are they sick or anything else?

“A few years ago there was a boy with anger issues and a family member told me he had been sexually abused.

“At the time, I was on the field, his father stopped and asked ‘Why does this boy like  you so much?’

“I said ‘because he doesn’t have a father figure in his life because his father robs people and smokes [drugs]’.

“He just walked away.”   

Substance abuse was rife in his community and he was disappointed by the lack of  accessible rehabilitation for drug addicts.

“There is no help in East London for people with drug problems.

“One of the girls who used to play for me is deep into drugs. She was such a good player. This is a hard job.”

Plaatjies was honoured by the nomination but said he did not do this for praise.

“I do not like the limelight, that’s how I am. For me, this all comes from God.”

Nominee Nathan Miles said Plaatjies was legendary.

 “He is a father figure to every youngster in our community and passionate about giving back [rather] than receiving.

“He believes that education comes first. His motto is discipline, dedication and determination.

“Many youngsters excelled professionally in their football careers and job careers.

“Last year,  under the Stella Jessie Esbend Football Association, he obtained the accolade of best coach category.

“His U11, U13, U17 and U19 football juniors were crowned champion league winners.”



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