Ajax Cape Town Academy graduate and Swallows FC midfielder Grant Margeman’s amazing talent and can-do attitude shone like a light from Bonteheuwel – and now he’s giving other young footballers from the area the chance to shine as well.
“I grew up in Bonteheuwel,” Margeman recalls. “I won’t say it was difficult or easy, but it’s not exactly one of the best places to grow up. But football gave me a focus – and helped me find my place in the community.”
It took a little while to find his feet, though.
“I started playing football at the age nine for Citrus Spurs. After two seasons I joined Ikapa Football Academy. This was where I discovered my talent and passion for the game. We would often take part in big tournaments and come up against elite academies like Ajax, Santos and Vasco – and sometimes beat them.’
At age 12, he received a rare opportunity: Platinum Stars were touring Cape Town, and invited Margeman and another two players to join them as guest players for a tournament in Port Elizabeth. They went along – and did well; and because of that they were again asked to participate at a tournament in Norway.
This was his first time going overseas – barely even a teenager yet. So they competed, and even made it to the quarter-finals in Oslo, where they unfortunately fell out. This was a massive experience for a young boy coming from Bonteheuwel – and it was another confirmation of his talent.
“This tour made me want to work harder to become a professional footballer,” says the midfielder also known as Pacman.
This led to him eventually becoming a professional footballer for Ajax Cape Town, a League winner with Mamelodi Sundowns, youth and senior national team player and a reemerging midfielder at Swallows FC.
“When I joined Ajax Cape Town at 14, I knew that I was at one of the best academies on the continent. Also that they were good at developing footballers and weren’t shy to give youngsters a chance in the first team. So my main goal was to get to the first team as soon as possible.”
The person that played a major role in his development, not just as a footballer but also as a person was the late Keith Paulse – someone well-known (and deservedly so) within Cape Town footballing circles.
“He was the one that converted me into a midfielder,” Margeman says. “Even when I joined Ajax, he would still give input into my game and reminded me of the type of player I am. Always pushed me and saw the amount of promise I showed. I’m very grateful for him.”
Challenges & Chances – And Helping Youth Shine
Not many expected such a light to come from Bonteheuwel – an area that was created in the 1960s as a result of the Group Areas Act. But there were times along the way when that light was nearly extinguished.
Not being brought up well off, transport became a major challenge, and at one point he simply stopped playing football for a month or two.
“I always wanted to provide for my family. There was a time I couldn’t get to training and we weren’t well off; never had a car or anything like that. I didn’t want to put my family and myself under that kind of stress. I left the club for a month or two, and completely stopped playing whilst at Ikapa.”
Help came from the Head of Youth of Ikapa, who made arrangements for Margeman to get to training and back home.
He also had the support of his family, and a cousin that would guide him away from things like gangsterism. And the gangs of Bonteheuwel seemed to understand – they saw that he was playing for Ikapa and Ajax, and afforded him some measure of respect and appreciation for all that he was trying to achieve as a young player.
”They would never pressure me into being part of them,” confirms the plucky central midfielder. “They kind of saw me as that light for Bonteheuwel – a positive example of what our community could achieve. That’s why It was so important to start my community tournament in Bonteheuwel.”
The Blue Ribbon Margeman Youth Cup is usually hosted on Youth Day, and offers young players the chance to show off their skills.
“Maybe the next top talent from Bonteheuwel can be discovered through this initiative. Maybe it can help people see just what we can achieve – and see that there are many other lights shining out there.”
Edited by Nicklaus Kruger