Embracing the Dream

Alex van Schalkwyk described the moment he found out he had been accepted to study in the United States as “absolutely crazy.”  Alex is to complete his postgraduate year at Northwood School, a coeducational, independent boarding school which partners with Black Rock FC to offer an elite level soccer option.

It was mad… my parents were jumping up and down, and my brother was there, it was crazy,”
— Alex laughed.

The same could be said for Alex’s past six months, which have twisted through emotional highs and lows as he waited to hear a decision on his application. Alex, now 19, joined Ubuntu when he was just 12-years-old, and he has always wanted to pursue a quality education and play soccer.

Alex van Schalkwyk at age 12, when he first joined Ubuntu Football Academy. Alex, who has moved houses between five and 10 times since then, somehow managed to keep up with his original kit. 

Since the beginning, studying in the US has been a pathway Ubuntu wanted for its players. In grade 11, Alex went to the US & attended college ID camps. After training with top college players at Columbus Crew FC, he started to believe he could make it.

Upon returning to South Africa, Alex had a choice to make. His ultimate goal was to go overseas, but he applied to Stellenbosch University in South Africa as a backup plan. After being accepted, he took a risk and decided to forego that opportunity in the hope that another would arise, ideally in the US.

“I had a few emails from coaches, but there wasn’t a ton of interest. Sometimes the coaches took forever to respond, or they just wouldn’t respond at all. I started to realise going to the US is quite a difficult process. Even if you play well, it’s not easy to get into a university,” he said.  


A few months passed, then Alex received the first word about Northwood School. Head Coach Casey Prince connected Alex with Jon Moodey, the Director of Residential Academy at Northwood, and he invited Alex to apply. Patience could be difficult in the coming months, especially when there was no school or soccer to pass the time. Alex, along with his parents and siblings, waited. 

“We invested so much time into it, so for them to come back and say no would have been heartbreaking, but at the same time, we didn’t want to entertain that thought. We had to have faith that it would come right,” Alex said. 

Then one day in June, Alex received his acceptance email. Hit with a wave of feelings from excitement to relief, it was time to switch gears and make a plan to get to New York by September 1st. 

“There were a lot of unexpected costs that came in the process, so our first solution was to make a soccer tournament,” Alex said. “We saw the interest people had in the tournament and decided we wanted to do it for more years to come, to help other Ubuntu boys in the future.”


The ALEX VAN SCHALKWYK SOCCER 4 HUMANITY FIVES TOURNAMENT will take place on Saturday 25 August 2018 at the Hellenic professional Astro Turf in Mouille Point, Cape Town, as part of World Humanity Day. For more information on how to be a part of it, click the button below. 


If I wanted to go play soccer overseas on my own, I wouldn’t know where to start. I think Ubuntu has given the perfect platform for us to go overseas. In a different place, never would I get an email from a coach asking me to apply to a school, then possibly get a scholarship, you know? It was only because of Ubuntu and their name that someone would even consider giving me this opportunity. I have to say Ubuntu played a massive role in getting me there.”

Alex, a dominant striker who enjoys Chance the Rapper, fishing, and playing play station, is still most excited about the soccer.

“I know it’s a basic answer,” he laughed, “but I know we are going to be playing in very good facilities, playing against professional academies, so that’s obviously very exciting. I’ve always wanted to play at the highest level I can, so the fact that we’re going to be competing against strong teams is something I’m looking forward to,” he said.  

After Northwood, Alex hopes to go to a university, but ultimately, he hopes to sign a professional contract. Beyond soccer, Alex wants to work for a company that is dedicated to helping other people.

Alex van Schalkwyk arrived in New York Friday night, already on campus for preseason training. He is the third of the Ubuntu boys to travel to the US thus far, still with four still to follow him. 

*UPDATE: Since the writing of this article, Alex has signed his letter of intent for and received an acceptance letter for Dartmouth College, a private Ivy League University in Hanover, New Hampshire. He will start at the University in August and be playing for the NCAA Division 1 “Big Green” soccer team. Wish him luck!

*Northwood School is a coeducational, independent boarding school which partners with Black Rock FC to offer an elite level soccer option. This program provides top-level players from around the world a chance to play soccer and train throughout the academic year. During the fall season, the team will compete against top prep and high school teams. In the winter and spring, they play against the best domestic and international club teams. Alex will complete his post-graduate year emphasizing preparation for college coursework.