Lead SALead SA

Cancer survivor becomes SA's youngest soccer referee

Written by: Megan Ellis

Fezile Hlope not only overcame throat cancer when he was a young teen, but later started a career in football refereeing that put his name in the sport's history books.

The inspiring 17-year-old from Soweto is the youngest referee in South African football history to oversee an official game.

The young star's passion for football started when he was a young child -- and he dipped his toe into refereeing when he was only 11 years old.

"I recall we were playing a game in 2011 and they were looking for someone to officiate in a few Under-11 and Under-13 games. That’s when I said I can do it. After doing that, I started to take a strong interest."

Fezile Hlope, South Africa's youngest football referee

However, when he was diagnosed with throat cancer at only 13 years old, his plans to pursue a football career were interrupted.

This didn't stop him from dedicating himself to his passion though -- between his cancer treatments, he studied the rules of the game and studied as many matches as he could on TV.

As soon as he had beaten the disease, Fezile began refereeing community games. This caught the attention of Diski Nine9 and Absa.

"Together with his mentor, ex-Absa employee, Raymond, they turned his passion into a purpose. They helped him study for, and pass, the necessary exams to take his refereeing to the next level."

Absa Prosper

With training and help from the organisation, he became South Africa's youngest football referee to oversee an official match. The match in question was the MultiChoice Diski Challenge match between the Kaizer Chiefs and the University of Pretoria.

The unstoppable force that is Fezile Hlope is not only an inspiration of cancer survivors, but South Africans everywhere who want to make their dreams come true despite facing difficult odds.




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