News / Africa

    Cricket Makes Comeback in Sierra Leone

    Boys play cricket in Freetown at Kingtom Oval, Sierra Leone's only cricket oval, November 15, 2012.
    Boys play cricket in Freetown at Kingtom Oval, Sierra Leone's only cricket oval, November 15, 2012.
    The game of cricket is making a comeback in Sierra Leone and is inspiring young men in particular.  Many young people who play are also being encouraged to stay in school by the local cricket association.  

    The temperature is 28 C in the afternoon as a coach shouts out commands to his cricket players at Sierra Leone's only cricket ground in the country's capital Freetown.

    The players look intense, concentrating on their game.  But this is not any random cricket game, this is different.

    A young cricket player from the SLCA playing a match at the Kingtom oval in Freetown, Sierra Leone, January 12, 2013. (N. deVries/VOA)A young cricket player from the SLCA playing a match at the Kingtom oval in Freetown, Sierra Leone, January 12, 2013. (N. deVries/VOA)
    A young cricket player from the SLCA playing a match at the Kingtom oval in Freetown, Sierra Leone, January 12, 2013. (N. deVries/VOA)
    A young cricket player from the SLCA playing a match at the Kingtom oval in Freetown, Sierra Leone, January 12, 2013. (N. deVries/VOA)
    Several of these cricket players are playing not only for fun, but also to enhance their education and improve their lives.  Osman Koroma, 18, is currently is homeless. "I am living around with my friends, so when I want to go to sleep, I say to my friends, 'Man, I am coming over' and I go and lay my head," he explained.

    Koroma started playing cricket when he was just nine years old.  He was having trouble in school and decided to try it as a hobby.

    His family did not like him playing though, because they were worried it would interfere more with his studies.  They told him he had to leave the house if he continued playing.

    By then the sport was his passion, so he chose to leave home.  The Sierra Leone Cricket Association stepped in and encouraged him to stay in school and still play cricket.

    The Association even helped with his school fees.  Koroma says cricket has helped him stay more focused, because he says the game is all about discipline.  He has competed in several West African tournaments, and encourages other young men to take up the game. "Let them come and find a way out, to play sports, cricket, it is a game played all over the world," he stated. "A responsible game."

    Usman Thomas Sankoh, 17, is another youth struggling because he could not afford his school fees.

    The Sierra Leone Cricket Association also helped him pay his fees and encouraged him to play cricket.  He is now a strong bowler and batman.

    Speaking in his native Krio language Sankoh said the game of cricket helped pick him up from the gutter and brought him to life.  He is grateful for that.

    SLCA CEO Francis Samura is one of the driving forces behind helping keep youth in school, while playing cricket.  Through playing cricket he also gained self confidence when he was a teenager.  Now he wants to help others. "I have the focus that I must do better in life, I must be somebody who can contribute to development, of my country, develop myself and help other people," Samura said. "So I am an example to the youth."

    Samura says with so many youth unemployed in the country, 70 percent according to the World Bank, there is a desperate need for youth to stay in school.  He says the majority of money to help pay for players' school fees comes from the Sierra Leone government and the International Cricket Council.  

    Samura also wants youth to understand the history and significance the game has had on the country.

    Sierra Leone is a former British colony, and the game was first introduced by the British Royal Artillery in 1898.  The sport thrived among the British and the people of Sierra Leone.

    Ainor Emmanuel Scott, a veteran player who first started playing as a young boy in the 1960's, remembers how popular cricket was back then and says often the British and locals would play together on the same teams. "It is a game that will mold you into a gentleman," he said.

    But it was not always like this.  The game completely stopped during the country's civil war in the 1990's, which lasted a decade.  During that time almost all cricket grounds were destroyed.

    It has taken a lot of patience and hard work to bring the game back.  The field these young cricketers in Freetown play on has no grass and there is no fence, but they make it work.
    Scott says he is pleased to see so many young people taking an interest in the sport again and he spends much of his time coaching young players too. 

    And the young players today are making an impact.  These days more than 4,000 young people are involved in cricket throughout Sierra Leone.

    Players are unfazed by the challenge, and the SCLA's Francis Samura says they are hoping to qualify for the International Cricket Council Under-19 World Cup in February 2014.

    The SLCA also hopes to encourage a West African tournament in the Gambia sometime in March.

    You May Like

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves in Landmark Discovery

    Researchers likened discovery to difference between looking at piece of music on paper and then hearing it in real life

    Prince Ali: FIFA Politics Affected International Fixtures

    Some countries faced unfavorable treatment for not toeing political line inside soccer world body, Jordanian candidate to head FIFA says

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.