Written by Cape Town Intern, Deborah Hayes
Picture the scene; it’s Thursday evening in Cape Town and a group of African Impact volunteers are gathered around a whiteboard whilst the basic principles of cricket are explained, the Lionhouse sofas are removed and a game of living room cricket ensues. This week’s sports development volunteers are from the USA, Holland and Argentina – all the great non-cricket playing nations of the world – they are getting to grips with overs, creases and silly point. This can only mean one thing; tomorrow is the start of Cape Town’s street cricket!
The following day volunteers are fully prepared and set off enthusiastically, ready for an afternoon of cricket on the streets of Khayelitsha and Langa. Across the two communities, a total of 240 children are also busy preparing for this year’s competition, whilst a team of coaches and umpires are briefed on the structure and rules of the tournament and excitement grows. Sporting Chance have hosted street cricket tournaments for young people across Cape Town since 2004, however, in recent years a lack of sponsorship has meant that the programme has suffered, with no tournaments running between 2011 and 2014. Support from The Happy Africa Foundation meant that the project returned to Khayelitsha in 2014 and this year, we aimed to support Sporting Chance as they made the programme even bigger and better. Months of fundraising efforts resulted in close to R 90,000 being raised, meaning that the tournament could take place in two Cape Town communities.
The 2015 street cricket season began in early October and took place every Friday afternoon for two months, culminating in a grand final on Friday 4th December. For those who have not previously seen street cricket in action, the sport is a fast-paced, simplified version of traditional cricket, with teams of six players, all of whom have the opportunity to both bat and bowl. Rules such as ‘tip and run’ (players must run whenever they make contact with the ball) make for exciting and high-scoring matches, whilst superb fielding skills, often involving scaling walls and fences to retrieve the ball from neighbouring gardens, keep the batting team on their toes! A dedicated team of local coaches, with the support of African Impact volunteers, offer advice, guidance and encouragement to develop the sporting skills of the young people involved in the tournament, whilst handshakes before and after each match ensure that sportsmanship and mutual respect is a priority throughout.
The Cape Town street cricket project fulfils a number of functions and is invaluable to many young people living within the communities where it takes place. Since the end of Apartheid in 1994, physical education has not returned to many primary schools across South Africa, meaning that the majority of young people, especially those living in township areas, are denied access to the many physical and social benefits of sport and exercise. Sporting Chance seek to provide young people with opportunities to become involved in organised, extra-curricular sports. As well as the numerous physical benefits of sports involvement, initiatives such as street cricket allow young people to showcase their sporting abilities; talented young cricketers are identified and supported as appropriate. The street cricket programme also provides young people with a safe, positive outlet for their energy at the end of the school day, whilst protecting them from other negative influences which they may otherwise be exposed to, such as gangs, drugs, alcohol and abuse.
Throughout the eight week programme, teams were organised into two leagues within each community, playing a ‘round robin’ tournament, with all children participating in a minimum of two matches each week. In the last week of the tournament, the top four teams from Khayelitsha travelled to Langa for the finals afternoon. An action-packed series of matches followed, ending with an all-Khayelitsha final match. The ‘Cricket Bullies’ took on ‘Sunrisers’ in a competitive and closely fought contest. Some superb batting, accurate bowling and patient fielding resulted in a Sunrisers victory! Throughout the speeches and presentations, all players listened intently and respectfully applauded the victorious team, demonstrating how the spirit of fair play and sportsmanship had been developed throughout the programme.
It is safe to say that this was a hugely successful year for street cricket in Cape Town and we’re hoping for even bigger and better things in 2016! Visit here to find out more about this project.