Part of my work is with the Gary Kirsten Foundation, a non-profit Sports Foundation which works in Khayelitsha, the largest township in Cape Town and one of its poorest areas. We build Cricket ecosystems with infrastructure and coaching for young players who have no other sport programmes to take part in.
Starting in 2014, and without any starting capital, the Foundation committed to building one cricket facility and appointed a full-time coach. Five years later, and with sponsors and investors taking more notice all the time, the Foundation now operates from five schools in Khayelitsha and employs seven full-time coaches from the area.
This year, we decided to take a team of young players to the sports’ biggest global tournament, ‘The Cricket World Cup’.
At first, it seemed like an impossible dream, but after months of passport and birth certificate and Visa applications, fundraising, kit sourcing and branding and logistical planning, the GK Foundation World Cup Tour finally came to fruition on 14 June 2019.
A squad of boys aged between 10 and 13 and two of the local coaches, embarked on a tour of the United Kingdom that saw them play four matches against elite English schools and experience something that they could never have dreamed of, watching the South African Team ‘the Proteas’ play three matches along the way.
None of the children on tour had ever been in an aeroplane before, while Cape Town International Airport came to a standstill when they departed for the UK as families, teachers and friends from Khayelitsha arrived to send them off.
At every stage, there was a new ‘first’ for the boys, from the aeroplane to landing in a new country, playing at incredible facilities and watching their beloved sport at some of the best stadiums in the world. Beyond sport, going to theme parks, riding rollercoasters and driving F1 simulators were incredible experiences that they won’t forget, while simple things like Hotel buffet breakfasts were unexpected highlights of the tour.
These kids got an opportunity to see what the world was like beyond their difficult circumstances, and they showed the talent that exists in these often forgotten communities. They only lost one of 4 games in opposition to teams who practice and play every day in privileged surroundings, showcasing their immense skill and courage on a big stage.
In their final game they beat a much bigger, older team and got a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd who couldn’t believe that a team that comes from such trying circumstances could perform at that level, strengthening our belief that talent is equally distributed but opportunity isn’t. Given some coaching and opportunity, these boys have flourished and are just a small example of what is possible if there is attention and investment in South Africa’s townships.
Now back in South Africa, we will begin construction on a High-Performance Centre and full size artificial field in Khayelitsha, which will serve as the hub of Township cricket in Khayelitsha, and create a space for players and coaches to learn life skills and develop as cricketers and more importantly, as people.