From a community infested with crime and drug to Right to Dream Academy: the story of Keanin Ayer
Keanin Ayer has completed an incredible journey that has taken him from a crime and drug infested community in South Africa to one of the best football academies in Africa, the Right to Dream Academy, Ghana.
Keanin is known as a fearless character in his home community of Eldorado Park, noted for its notoriety in drugs and a high crime rate. Children get addicted to drugs at a very early age in Eldorado: sometimes as shockingly young as 10 or 11 years for both boys and girls.
Despite his relative young age, many people in his neighbourhood consider him as a young man who will not take no for an answer because he knows exactly what he is about and won’t stop until it is done.
Keanin was officially inducted into the Right to Dream Academy on June 3, 2013 after impressing coaches on trials in character, football and academics, at the third time of asking and he could definitely be described as ‘one of a kind’.
Born in Eldorado Park, south of Johannesburg, Keanin lived with his parents and three brothers.
His mom is unemployed, his dad a hardworking man who is fighting hard to overcome a difficult past while his step dad is a football coach who admits that he too is no stranger to the murky drug world.
He has three other brothers in the family. Lezano (9) is the brother he misses most and who hopes to follow in his footsteps. Delano (24) is unemployed and struggling to escape the highly addictive drug scene of Eldorado Park while Keegan (18) runs a small barbering shop from home.
The temptation to join the drug bandwagon is quite huge, a battle not for the faint hearted. Furthermore, Keanin’s house is located next to a park, where drugs are so accessible that a recent drug bust saw local police confiscate R700, 000 worth of drugs some few meters from his house.
However, this little boy found solace in football which provided a great distraction from the drug scourge. He was involved in various social development projects where he was often seen as the big hope for the boys from the programme – all of which are proud of his achievements to date.
The various programmes empower children who come from poor, abusive, drug and gang infested homes to break the cycle of addiction, violence and crime and lead healthy lives.
He made the transition after joining a football team in Eldorado and was the most passionate player, according to Jeremy Seethal, who is Keanin’s mentor: “He played against SuperSport U14 Academy at age 10, but was the most fearless and intelligent on the field.”
Jeremy adds: “Keanin was always the leader of the pack, had the best training attitude. Everybody remembers him as the boy who cried when the team lost. Sometimes it was best to keep him off the field to protect his own interests.”
He made the VW team in 2012 at the prestigious tournament in Johannesburg where his potential was on full display.
“He has two good feet. He can play behind the main striker or on the wings even though he is not the quickest player around, he thinks very fast,” Jeremy explains.
Jeremy, who is also a South African and a member of RtD’s Coaching and Scouting Department, was very instrumental in getting the young boy the chance to join RtD.
He is Keanin’s guardian in Ghana, filling the role that otherwise his parents in South Africa would have been responsible for.
But Keanin’s journey to Right to Dream was not all that easy as he had to trial three times before getting the nod. Now, he is looking forward to fulfill his dream of becoming a professional player.
“I want to play the same as Messi and I chose RtD because it’s a great opportunity for me,” Keanin said, adding that he likes to combine education and football in order to see his dreams come true.
The Pastoral department at RtD has played a key role in the South African settling down at the Academy. The department recognized Keanin’s peculiar situation and have been very helpful in inspiring and motivating him to be part of the team.
It is also noteworthy to recognize the important role played by Abdul Umar Basit, Keanin’s best friend at the Academy. Keanin and Basit got along quickly following the South Africans introduction at the Academy.
Basit was impressed with the new boy’s ability to do a few tricks and got attracted to him. The pair get along very well and have a relationship which could be described as being just like brothers.
Keanin told his friends at his departure ceremony in South Africa some months ago that, “I want to change my life.”
Well, he has fought to the end and now it’s the dawn of a new era. Now the dream building begins with much courage and determination.