"Always believe in yourself, there are many paths that lead to success" – Rocky Hehakaija

Unlike Sylvester Stallone’s fictional character RockyBilboa, our Moluccan Rocky is a real Legend – a Street Football Legend. Social entrepreneur and motivational speaker Roxanne (aka Rocky) Hehakaija made time to talk to us (mere mortals) about her youth, her father’s influence, and her Favela Street Foundation, during our 5th Bacarita dari Timur webinar on 9th October 2020.

As a young girl, born in the Netherlands, Rocky dreamt of becoming a professional football player and wanted to show off her skills in a sold-out stadium. Not just any stadium though, but the one she could see in the far distance, from the high rise she grew up in on the outskirts of Amsterdam. The Ajax stadium! Who would ever have thought though that she would become way bigger than that dream? She broke the glass ceiling of male-dominated (street) football, by becoming the first female Street Legend of the most famous and best Street Legends Team in the world and the first female player in Street Football Game FIFA 20. In 2017 her name appeared on the BBC 100 Women List, in the category Sexism in Sport category.

Her late father, a great football player himself, had been her biggest inspiration and his legacy is still an important part of her life. She mentions him frequently during the webinar and said: “I hope that one day we’ll meet each other again in another place and that we can play football again. He blessed me with so many important messages and has given me a positive light in my heart, which I will always carry with me.” A picture of the two of them sits behind her.

Her talents were soon discovered, and she became a promising member of the Dutch National Football Team. However, her dream, came to a cruel end when in her twenties, a serious leg injury ended her professional football career. She was told that it was better to find another hobby. “But football wasn’t just a hobby, it meant everything to me”, she said defiantly and with passion. Even though this was obviously devastating news, she turned it around with her positive outlook and realisation that football can be a strong and powerful tool. “Setbacks and disappointments can make you mentally and physically stronger, you learn how to deal with it, and it can be character-forming”, she added.

So even though her professional football career was over, she knew that she could do more than just score goals. During a previous trip to the Favelas (slums) in Brazil in 2003, Rocky discovered the real Power of Football and how a simple game could bring enjoyment and happiness to the young people living in poverty and where drugs and violence were the order of the day. That trip made a real impression on her and she knew that she wanted to help these youngsters. She wanted to show these kids that even though they were born and raised in a disadvantaged environment, they were not destinated to become a nobody.

Rocky wanted to create a new generation of role models with the power of Street Football and inspire young people to make a positive choice. She knew that she could do more than score goals and that she if she combined her footballing talents and experience, with her other skills like communication, organising football activities and worked together with other people, she would have a very important tool to help others. It was the beginning of her Favela Street Foundation. 

Her projects have taken her to Brazil, Curaçao, Paris and Sudan and are not all football-related, as not everyone wants to be a football coach. Aimed at young people, the two-year programmes focus on their goals and ambitions. How they can expand their network and world and where they learn to prove that they too can do it. Her next big step and dream is to bring the experience and knowledge (hopefully with the help of other famous Moluccan football players) to Maluku and set up a project there.

Rocky may already be a Legend, but her star is still rising – her innovative impact measurement tool, which gives an insight into the programme participants’ path of growth - has been created with the help of scientists, and has earned her a nomination on the Athena40 Global List 2020 of the World’s most forward-thinking Woman. Her father would have been immensely proud to see his daughter’s face amongst the likes of Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney and the premier of New Zealand.

Watch this webinar (again) and be inspired by Rocky, by clicking on this link