… As thousands of black kids embrace the game
By John Tuerijama
CRICKET Namibia (CN) board member, Laurie Pieters, has revealed how a development programme he introduced in 2002 has now resulted in the previously white-dominated sport being introduced to 13 000 kids, of which the majority are black.
While bemoaning Namibia’s underperformance at world major sporting events, Pieters said that he remains a vocal advocate for the country to have inclusive national teams across all its sporting codes by 2020.
In 2002, Pieters embarked on a CN developmental programme, which was inclusive of all cultures and races, and which was administered by Marcia Raid and Jona Ambuka.
He said that from 2003 to 2008, the programme registered 5 000 cricketing hopefuls, as it targeted regions in the northern parts of the country.
Pieters said that by 2014, Cricket Namibia had introduced the sport to 13 000 children, of which a number were from schools in Oshakati, Oshikuku, Rundu, Outjo, Swakopmund, Windhoek and Otjiwarongo.
These youth now play cricket regularly.
“The bottom line is that we have gained many players and blacks are deserving of being called up into national teams, where there must be 40 to 45 percent players of colour,” Pieters said. He, however, added the poor performances of Namibian teams, across all sport codes on the global stage, can be attributed to poor coaching structures. “The development of any sport is a 30-year process, and having gained our independence in 1990, cricket and all other sport codes must be inclusive by 2020,” said Pieters. “From there, we will have national teams that will include the majority of the population, by having more blacks (in these teams); it’s not that I am a racist, but I only want to see what’s good for the country,” he stressed. “All sport codes must create opportunities for its athletes to achieve and be successful at the highest level,” he said.
“I think anybody that heads a decision-making body in sport has huge challenges and expectations are high, but there are extreme limitations, such as funding and sponsorship,” emphasised Pieters.
The renowned administrator, who is also a former CN Chief Executive Officer, said that the lack of proper coaches can be blamed on government, whose red tape, in terms of employing foreign nationals, is cumbersome.
He said that government can make it easier for sport codes to employ qualified coaches, if it streamlines the process of acquiring work permits and other substantive documents. “Both cricket, rugby and football could have played top level sport, if we had in our employ qualified coaches, to raise our profiles, skills and successes,” said Pieters. The cricket administrator, who was introduced to the game, when he attended a test match between South Africa and New Zealand at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1952 with his late father, said that “success breeds success”.
Born in 1944, Pieters said that more money must be injected into sport, although there are other priority areas in the country, such as health and housing. The 73-year-old said that Namibia must start winning at world events, by employing competent coaches and funding its players. The former Centaurus High School pupil, who played for Wanderers Cricket Club during his heydays, admitted that during apartheid, cricket was an all-white sport, played by a select few. He said Namibia’s independence in 1990 brought a huge change, as the administration of the game changed, and many left the country, especially whites. Pieters said that at independence, Namibia was left with only 60 top cricketers, and when he was asked to become Cricket Namibia’s chairman in 1992, the sport became the first code in the country to adhere to the Gleneagles Agreement, which was a pact between Commonwealth leaders to discourage sporting contact with apartheid South Africa.
“We were the very first sport to sever sporting relations with South Africa, and we were left with a challenge to pack up and close our doors, but instead, myself and Kurk West, started an initial cricket development programme with 50 boys at St Georges Diocesan School and Emma Hoogenhout English Primary School in 1993,” recalled Pieters.
“The growth of cricket never ceased; although it was popular among young white boys, it was not that successful in areas such as Katutura and Khomasdal, but did have a couple of coloured boys,” he said.
He later introduced the countrywide development programme in 2002, which has reaped rich rewards. Pieters echoed the sentiments of former Deputy Minister of Sport, Youth and National Service, Pohamba Shifeta, who said that sport being played along cultural lines, is the country’s biggest challenge.
He said that despite positive developments, criticism and expectations will always be there, and that more must be done. “Yes, as for the national side set-up, I think the coaching structure is poor, and is not really keeping up with the international challenges,” he said.
Although Namibia has so far dismally failed to qualify for the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup, Pieters is optimistic that things will change in the future, as the team attends training programmes at high-performance centres and is coached by those with world-class skills.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015