It was a school teacher who one day put his hands on the desk of Bernard Parker, looked him in the eyes and told him what an unbelievable talent he had for football. And for the now legendary Kaizer Chiefs striker, this teacher is one of what he describes as the many fathers he’s been blessed to have in his life.
'That teacher said he would help me to gain exposure for my talent, and then the rest was up to me,' says Parker. 'He took me for my first trials and I made it, and after that things started to change for me. Through God’s grace, I went into professional football straight after school. This teacher wouldn’t even want his name mentioned now, and he has never once reminded me that he gave me that opportunity. That’s how humble he is. When you get that kind of opportunity, you need to make the best of it.'
From growing up on the streets of the Reiger Park township in Boksburg to dribbling his way to stadiums on the world stage, to Kaizer Chiefs and being capped 73 times for Bafana Bafana, Parker has done exactly what his teacher asked of him.
When approached to be part of the Kaizer Chiefs and Vodacom Red Father and Son Sleepout, Parker didn’t hesitate to sign up to join 100 Vodacom Red clients at the Kaizer Chiefs Village in Naturena. This 31 August experience, which is exclusive to Vodacom Red clients, will see Kaizer Chiefs’ fathers and their sons connect with their beloved football club like never before, as 100 fathers and father-figures and their sons (aged 4-10) will camp out in style at the Kaizer Chiefs Village.
As a father of boys Skye (14) and Storm (7), Parker knows from his own experience the value a strong father figure plays in a young man’s life.
'I grew up in a township, and I would say I was brought up by a lot of fathers. These were people who lived in our road, people I looked up to, people who welcomed me into their homes when I had nothing to eat. My friends’ fathers would make me feel part of their families. I didn’t have much involvement with my own father, but I am always thankful to the people that played that role in my upbringing and brought me this far and groomed me to become a better person. They did so with love and respect. So me being a father to my children, I’m giving them what I never had.'
At Kaizer Chiefs, Parker says he’s also experienced the family atmosphere this club is famous for.
'Kaizer Chiefs has always been a club about love and peace. They live up to those ideals, and I really believe that’s why our club has such a great following. They drive the family message, and every player and supporter really does feel like they are part of a family at this club. The Kaizer Chiefs and Vodacom Red Father and Son Sleepout is very exciting because it supports exactly what our club is all about.'
And the fact that the event will take place in the aptly named Kaizer Chiefs Village is also not lost on Parker.
'What I’ve picked up along my journey is that everyone has been blessed with a talent, and once you find out the talent that you have, you must place a lot of positives on it and feed it. You must make sure that you grow in that direction, and to grow you need good people around you. You just need to find the right circle of people around you, like a village of your people. Once you have the right circle and are surrounded by people that want to uplift you, that’s when it meets with your talent and you become something.'
On 31 August, Parker’s goal will not be the back of the net. It will be a far bigger goal in a game he knows he has to win for the sake of his sons.
'Fatherhood is so important to me. It’s important to make sure you bring your kids up in the best way possible. You give them your all, you share your knowledge and you want to make sure they grow up to become good citizens in this world of ours. And fatherhood keeps you on your toes because you know you need to lead by example. But it’s also fun.'
To be one of the 100 lucky Vodacom Red fathers or father-figures to stand a chance to win a camping spot at the Kaizer Chiefs and Vodacom Red Father and Son Sleepout on 31 August, register your entry before 12 August by at www.redrewards.co.za
Follow the conversation at #RedFatherAndSon and #BeAPresentDad
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