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Villagers club celebrates 50 years

Fifty years ago a group of young men working at Sea Harvest in Saldanha planted a seed that became the West Coast’s first soccer club, which was watered with patience, love, determination and hardly any sponsorship.

As this flower blossomed through the years its underdog story spread like pollen over the West Coast and birthed the many soccer clubs we see today.

This club is Villagers Football Club (VFC), which celebrates its 50th birthday this year.

To unwrap this rich history Ricardo Naidoo, marketer and former player at VFC, reached out to Weslander and shared the club’s humble beginnings and great influence on the soccer clubs in the area.

He recalls that the founding fathers, Johnny Lackay, Pastoor Goeieman, Andre Steffers, Joseph Adams, Oom Boeta and Uncle Whitey were responsible for keeping the VFC ship afloat.

At the time there were no active soccer clubs on the West Coast.

“They were a group of guys in their 20s from Cape Town who off-loaded the ships at Sea Harvest,” Naidoo pointed out, “and one day decided to form a club they initially called Harvest United.”

He added that as there were no clubs they played friendlies against other teams and the Dutch who also worked on the ships.

“In 1970 the guys decided to declare the club officially open as Villagers FC, after the first houses were built in Diazville for workers,” said Naidoo.

He said Lackay and a team earmarked their first soccer field, a section once covered in shrubs and reeds, which became the Diazville Sport Grounds.

“Later he incorporated junior and senior teams and from VFC, new clubs were born such as Heroes, Black Eagles, Young Chiefs. Through the years we played and won in the highest leagues, including the third division, the Shell league, the Castle league.”

Naidoo added that sacrifices sustained the club, as members had to dig into their pockets and think of ways to generate funds, as they lacked proper funding and sponsorship.

“Sometimes we sold vetkoek at the games, and the players paid a subsidy and we organised transport for our senior supporters. We never had a major sponsor that could carry us, but through these 50 years it’s amazing that the club survived if you think about all the travelling costs.”

VFC carries a family tradition that continues through the generations, as Naidoo is also married to Lackay’s daughter, Bellinda.

“We washed the shirts by hand every Monday after the weekend games,” she recalls.

Iris Solomon describes Lackay as a father figure in the community that helped steer the youth away from drugs and crime with sport.

“He always wanted to include the local youth in the team and fulfil their potential.”

Solomon remembers the soccer games on Sundays as sweet memories as well as family gatherings as the smell of Sunday lunch and koeksisters filled the air.

“After church you would find your mom and dad at the soccer field because this was where you had to eat your afternoon lunch. Young girls sold vetkoek and koeksisters. Trays were empty in minutes after they walked around the field.

“What’s also interesting is that the guys that started in the junior structure of the club when it began are now part of coaching panels and on the committee board.”

VFC has also scooped up various trophies over the years and groomed star players that were selected for the national female soccer team Banyana Banyana, Ajax and had trials at Kaizer Chiefs.

Naidoo adds this is only the beginning of more success for VFC, and that they hope to win the play-offs this year and commemorate VTF’s first sport field as the Johnny Lackay sport field. The club is also desperately in need of sponsors and funding.

For more information about the Villagers Football Club, contact Naidoo on 073 279 9232.

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