Sport

South Africa, Sport

Rural Limpopo cricket club does its bit for transformation

Rural Limpopo cricket club does its bit for transformation

In the tiny rural village of Ga-Sekororo in Limpopo, against a breathtaking backdrop of rolling hills, The Oaks Cricket Club has been playing cricket on concrete pitches for two decades. They hope to raise funds to visit the Eastern Cape – where the players will get to see the ocean for the first time – and make a documentary of their journey as they play their part in transforming the South African sporting landscape. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

If there was a list of the most beautiful places in the world to play cricket, The Oaks Cricket Club would be one of them. It might not have a clubhouse or floodlights, grass outfields or even a cricket pitch, but against the backdrop of the rolling hills of Limpopo, the setting is breathtaking.

Based in the village of Ga-Sekororo, part of the Maruleng district, the club was started in 1996, inspired by Brian Lara’s obliteration of the South Africans during the World Cup. Back then, the national team was still incredibly white and exclusive. Seeing a black man perform on the world stage prompted a rural community to begin their foray into cricket with a few tennis balls and self-made bats. It’s a journey that could become one of the most endearing stories of South African sport.

Much has changed since that day in 1996, but the club still battles many of the same problems. That has not curbed the players’ enthusiasm though. Coach Cavaan Moyakamela, who was part of founding the club in 1996, now coaches and mentors more than 80 disadvantaged boys and girls from the surrounding area, with the number constantly growing. Cricket offers the young people a distraction from the hardships they have to endure every day. As far as feel-good sporting stories go, this one is right up there.

But few people outside of the province know that the club exists. However, an award-winning filmmaker and local journalist is hoping to change that. South African Film and Television Award-winning producer of local film hit Dis Ek, Anna, Niel van Deventer, and Letaba Herald journalist Hendrik Hancke, have started the Field of Dreams initiative as a way to generate interest in the club.

They hope to raise funds through an IndieGoGo campaign to make a film about the club’s journey, improve their facilities and take the team on a tour to the Eastern Cape.

Hancke was compelled to get involved in the project after stumbling on the club while on assignment for the Letaba Herald. He’d done a story on the club, but as a cricket lover felt he could not simply leave things as they were.

Everywhere I drive in this wild part of our country I see the massive gap between the haves and the have-nots. As a cricket lover, after stumbling onto the kids of the Oaks, I couldn’t just leave everything and go on with my life. I started by writing a story about them for the paper and then I used the story to spread awareness about their daily struggle in order to try and facilitate some help for them,” Hancke told Daily Maverick.

The club has already touched the hearts of local businesses with Bosveld Citrus chipping in to pay coach Moyakamela to continue his passion, funding the club’s transport to fixtures and sponsoring some uniforms.

The CEO of Bosveld Citrus, Piet Smit, also stumbled on the club and is also a big cricket lover, so he immediately came on board,” Hancke explains.

Moyakamela told community newspaper Letaba Herald that the club priority has always been to create a safe, fun environment for the local youth, while offering an opportunity for the kids to learn about fitness and healthy living, but also gain the discipline and respect that team sport offers.

If the fundraising campaign reaches its target, the club will also offer a life experience for the players by going on their first ever cricket tour.

We chose the Eastern Cape because of their The Tiger Titans. A wonderful woman called Anne Linda McCreath and her family are involved in helping a rural cricket team in Bathurst. The idea is to go play against them,” Hancke says.

Also, the kids of the Oaks have never seen the ocean in their lives and I want to be there with a camera to capture the magical moment when they first do,” he adds.

The Tiger Titans, like The Oaks, rely entirely on donations to keep going. Both clubs serve as distraction in rural areas where outreach programmes rarely get to and create a safe space for young people of the community all while learning valuable skills.

The ethos of both clubs embodies the message of transformation that often gets lost in the discourse when politicians bang their number drums and talk the talk without ever bothering to strap up and do the walk. Both clubs offer access to resources and opportunities to youngsters who would otherwise have nothing to do. Neither club really cares who gets the credit for their work, as long as the young people in the programme benefit – and that will be their greatest asset in tackling the many challenges ahead. DM

Photos supplied by the The Oaks Cricket Club.

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