Non-Racial Cricketers Demonstrate Power Of Sharing In Community Sport By Cheryl Roberts

16 Mar

Sometimes, I’m at my happiest when I watch grassroots sports events in the hood. Saturday was one of those moments. IMG_9013During the week, I had the option of going to watch school athletics in Stellenbosch or a community pre-season rugby festival in Khayalitsha. Still undecided on Saturday morning, I spontaneously opted for a trip to Khayalitsha. Entering the Khayalitsha stadium, I saw a cricket match being played and a junior boys rugby match.

The playing field was neglected. I couldn’t understand why the grass was long; it should have been cut by stadium maintenance.  I guess it’s because it’s a stadium in the township that stadium care is not regular or consistent. I walked across the vast field to the cricket match. It was a junior boys, under 15 cricket match between Mitchells Plain CC and Khayalistha CC. Mitchells Plain was the visiting team.

I liked what I saw, heard and encountered whilst I took out my camera and began taking the photographs. Mitchells Plain was fielding, after having posted a big score and Khayalitsha were chasing. In the half hour that I watched some of the game’s proceedings, three Khayalistha wickets fell and the game was over. This wasn’t about who won the match; it was how the match was played and enjoyed, amongst boys from working class neighbourhoods, ranging in age from 12-15.

This junior boys cricket match was a perfect demonstration of non-racial sport at community level! The junior cricketers were happy they were outdoors playing sport. Although Mitchells Plain CC dominated the match with runs, wickets and fielding, they encouraged and supported their opponents. When one of the smallest players of Khayalitsha CC came to the wicket, a Mitchells Plain fielder immediately helped him take up his position at the crease, and ensured he was ready to be bowled at. The boys reminded each other to ‘clap the batsman in’ as he walked to the crease.

Playing equipment was shared amongst the players. Khayalitsha CC had a youth coach who encouraged the boy cricketers and helped them gear up. As a wicket fell and the next batsman’s turn came up to bat, helmets, bats and shin pads were shared between the outgoing and incoming batters.

There was no arrogance about Mitchells Plain’s victory. Justifiably, the boy cricketers were joyous and happy Two players shared a 100 run partnership and another scored his first half century. Both players were smiling about their achievement. Khayalitsha CC had a younger team, some still learning to play junior club cricket. One of Khayalitsha’s batters hit the ball, then ran without his bat. Of course, he was run out, without his bat. That was a funny moment. But he wasn’t ragged and laughed at, and he didn’t cry. I know he will learn from this experience.

There were no parents watching the match. This was good, I thought. Sometimes over-ambitious parents spoil junior sports events when they want their child to excel at all costs. The two coaches never interfered with the match or pitted the boys against each other in ugly spats. They supported and encouraged the boy cricketers.

The highlight of the event was the shaking of hands after the match. This was done spontaneously between the teams. Mitchells Plain CC did the handshake by singing popular and catchy song ‘I’m in love with a gogo’. A Khayalitsha cricketer played the latest hip hop music from his phone, and then it was a musical moment to enjoy.

The teams posed for my camera; Mitchells Plain wanted to know if they’d feature in ‘The Plainsman’ and Khayalitsha asked about them being in ‘City Vision” (both are community papers). I told them I will publish them in my national publication ‘South African Sport’, which them seemed happy about because, as one player said, ‘the whole of SA would see’.

I then posed for my photo with the teams; one of Khayalistha CC’s boys confidently placed his arm around me. I knew that in ten year’s time, I’m bringing out that picture to remind me of the memories created at a sports event in the hood.

Maybe, one day one or more of these junior players will represent Western Province and South African cricket teams. On Saturday, without them knowing, they showed me the phenomenal power of non-racial, grassroots sport that still lives within working class communities.


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