Maasai hope to bowl Cape Town over

Ray Maota

Ole Sonyanga Weblen Ngais and Francis
Meshame, two of the Maasai Cricket
Warriors, have taken to cricket like
ducks to water.

Ngais said that sooner or later, one
or even several Maasai will play on
the Kenyan national team because
they have the best bowlers and 
 good batsmen.
(Images: Maasai Cricket Warriors)

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The Maasai Cricket Warriors are young men from Laikipia North in Kenya and they are not your usual semi-nomad cattle herders living in the wild. They also play a mean game of cricket.

The warriors in their head beads and red robes have swapped their spears and shields for protective pads and a cricket bat. They have, however, shunned the rest of the cricket gear, preferring to stay in their traditional garb while playing.

The players are aiming to be role models in their communities where, as a team, they visit schools to talk about relevant social issues such as Aids prevention, the fight against female genital mutilation, polygamy and early marriage, gender equality, and alcoholism and drug addiction.

They also encourage environmental protection.

A visit to South Africa

The ambitious athletes plan to participate in the second edition of the T20 Last Man Stands World Championships, which takes place in Cape Town from 31 March 2012 to 7 April, but lack of funds is hindering their preparation.

The Last Man Stands tournament sees amateur teams from around the world playing several T20 group matches, followed by a knockout stage and a final.

With a grand prize of US$10 000 (R77 000), the event is sure to offer great exposure to the Maasai Cricket Warriors and their cause.

Maasai warrior Francis Meshame said: “It is an easy game because when you bowl it is just like throwing the spear. The pads we use are just like the shields we use when we are fighting, and the bat itself is just like the ‘rungu’, or the clubs that we use.”

Andrew Ryan, a fundraiser for the Maasai Cricket Warriors, said: “The international Last Man Stands World Championships tournament will give the Maasai Warriors the opportunity to represent their country in a sport they have grown to love, while experiencing a different culture and making friends from other parts of the world.”

Ryan added that the players are all very excited and they are training hard for the tournament.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for them and they need all the help they can get to make their dreams come true.”

Donations can be made through Ryan’s page on the Just Giving website.

The gentleman’s game

Cricket was introduced into Kenya during British colonial rule and although the East African country does have a national cricket team, the game was only played in the largest cities until five years ago when South African cricket enthusiast and sports managing consultant Aliya Bauer began coaching local schoolchildren in the village of Il Polei in the game.

Bauer said that the older Maasai boys developed an interest in the sport while watching the younger ones play.

“Teaching people a new sport they have never seen is quite challenging,” said Bauer.

The lack of facilities and equipment initially hampered their progress but thanks to donations, the team is now equipped with bats, balls, gloves and pads.

Bauer said: “The moranes (young Maasai warriors) learned to throw the spear when they were very young. It makes them very good bowlers.”

There is also no shortage of enthusiasm for the game. One player walks 16km to the practice field and 16km back home.

Team member Ole Sonyanga Weblen Ngais said: “Sooner or later, one or even several Maasai will play on the Kenyan national team because we have the best bowlers and we have good batsmen.”

In 2011 trainers from Cricket Without Borders came to Laikipia and awarded several of the team’s players their official coaching diploma.

Help get the team to Cape Town

The Maasai Cricket Warriors need help to participate in the week-long T20 Last Man Stands World Championships.

The 25-strong team needs a total of $14 500 (R112 000), which will cover airfare, accommodation, transport and meals for the players.

To make it easier to donate, the costs have been broken down as follows; to ensure that one warrior is fed for one day during the tournament, $10 (R77) is needed; $15 (R116) will accommodate and provide breakfast for one warrior for one day of the tournament; and $25 (R193) will provide a night’s hostel accommodation with three meals for one warrior.

To secure a warrior’s meals for the entire tournament, $100 (R772) is needed; $250 (R1 930) will accommodate and provide lunch and dinners for one warrior for the entire tournament; while $900 (R6 948) will cover the return airfares and airport taxes for one warrior to participate in the tournament.

While inCape Town they hope to visit schools and interact with South African children, spreading their message of healthy living.