HCC launches Zuid Afrika Sport appeal
There was a party atmosphere at De Diepput on Tuesday afternoon as the Kon. HC&VV – the combined sports club which includes Topklasse club HCC and football club HVV – launched its Zuid Afrika Sport campaign.
The aim of the initiative is to fill a container with surplus sports equipment and to send it to South Africa early next year to be used by less-privileged children there. The campaign is linked to an Under-16 cricket tour to South Africa, which will take place at the same time that the container is due to arrive.
Enlivened by the presence of a samba band and an enthusiastic bunch of HCC’s junior cricketers, the launch included HCC and former Dutch international captain Jeroen Smits bowling a ball into the empty container. This was followed by a football, kicked by former HVV star Derick Mekking.
Smits also presented the chairman of the appeal committee, Fred Staal, with a unique and evocative item, the shirt he wore as he led the Netherlands to their remarkable victory over England at Lord’s in the 2010 World Twenty20 tournament.
The formal inauguration was followed by coaching sessions for the youth players, led by Dean Brownlie, Tom de Grooth, and by two of HCC’s South African contingent, Stephan Myburgh and Patrick van Niekerk.
Fred Staal is very clear about the pressing need for sports clothing and equipment in South Africa. The massive economic and social inequalities which existed under apartheid cannot be eliminated within one generation, and huge numbers of children have limited opportunities to take part in organised sport.
‘The idea is that our youth players themselves take the initiative in this project,’ Staal says, ‘with the assistance of their parents where necessary. In that way, we aim not only to help young people in South Africa, but also to raise the social awareness of our members.’
Staal hopes that other clubs will join in the appeal by donating clothing and equipment for a range of sports. That includes just about anything apart from Alpine skiing, although he does not rule out water skis.
The container, donated by sponsors Nile Dutch, will be housed at De Diepput in the coming months, and will be open for donations between 16:00 and 17:00 every Friday.
Staal’s son Tonny is captain of the touring side which will, it is hoped, hand over the materiel from the container in South Africa next year. The tour will be his first experience of cricket outside Europe, although he has been on Dutch Lions tours to England.
‘I know it will be very different, and a real challenge,’ he said on Tuesday. ‘The weather and the playing conditions will be different, and the approach of our South African opponents will be different as well.
‘Playing on turf pitches will be a novelty in itself, and we’ll learn a lot about the South African approach to the game, and about how it feels to play in a country where cricket is a majority sport.’
The HCC side will play against school teams in various parts of the country, and the programme will include a match against a national development squad, which may well prove to be their most testing challenge.
Dutch teams have been involved in social programmes in the past: the 2009 national side, warming up for the World Cup qualifier, ran a coaching session at the township of Khayalitsha, near Cape Town, and HCC’s own exchange programme, launched last year, had as one of its goals the provision of opportunities for young South African cricketers to gain experience in Europe.
But this campaign is something different, and the Den Haag club and its sponsors deserve full support from the Dutch cricketing community.