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)
x
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 In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent, Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More