Cavaan Moyakamela is a man of few words playing in the field of dreams, but his actions speak volumes. He has single-handedly made a difference in the lives of an isolated, poor community in the Limpopo Province. And he has done so through cricket.
The Oaks Cricket Club is not what you’d expect it to be. There are no oak trees lining the outskirts of this field. There is no quaint clubhouse offering shade for spectators from the relentless bushveld sun. No dressing-room facilities for players, no fancy scoreboard. As a matter of fact, there is no grass field at all, no cricket pitch. Just a massive cement slab, the remnants of an old fruit store, long forgotten and worn out. This uneven, cracked surface with its outfield pock-marked by rocks and rubble is the most unlikely home ground of the thriving Oaks Cricket Club.
MAN WITH A PLAN
The coach and founder is Cavaan Moyakamela. His involvement with cricket happened per chance, twenty years ago. Over the course of two decades, it has become a way of life for him, a passion he now shares with a bunch of youngsters from the Maruleng district in Limpopo. The club offers these kids an opportunity to rise above social deprivation, poverty and isolation, against all odds.
‘I was still in high school when I started the club,’ Cavaan explains. ‘It was in 1996, during the cricket World Cup tournament. South Africa was crushed by the West Indies in the semi-finals. At the time, cricket was not a popular sport among black people. Very few of us here knew how the game was played and very few watched it on TV. Soccer was about the only sport we were interested in.
‘But I saw that game, by chance. I watched how the Windies beat the Proteas and it changed my whole world. These black guys beating the all-white SA side. That was something I’d never experienced before. So I decided to find out more about the game. I got a tennis ball and made a cricket bat from a piece of wood. And I started to teach myself by watching and copying the players on TV. I guess that’s where the first seeds of passion for cricket were planted.’
LEARNING ON THE JOB
Although he has no formal training, Cavaan acquired his skills and knowledge by simply watching broadcasts on TV. Soon his passion created interest and word spread in the community.
‘I started coaching part time in 2009 and full time in 2013. At that stage, the club had about 30 members. Nowadays we have many divisions of teams, from under-13s to under-19s. We also have a girl’s under-15 team and we are playing in the school leagues,’ he proudly explains. The Oaks Cricket Club now consists of 75 members and more kids join on a regular basis.
So what inspired him to share this passion? He answers without hesitation. ‘The love I have for cricket and the informal education it provides these youngsters. It teaches them responsibility, decision-making, respect, teamwork, discipline – in combination with this great game, it helps to build a good, solid community. It provides that window of opportunity that was not there before, the belief in a better, brighter future.’
Playing cricket, Cavaan continues, also leads to a fit, active and healthy society. ‘The main focus of the club is to help create a future for these kids. I do not want them to get involved with alcohol and drugs. There is a lot of that stuff going on around here. I get these youngsters to join the Oaks Cricket Club and chase their passion.’
TRIUMPH OVER ADVERSITY
Sure, there are major challenges to face. Cavaan explains, ‘The playing surface is not ideal at all. Our cement field stands out like a sore thumb compared to urban schools where kids enjoy their cricket on proper fields. Our kids have the passion to play the game, but it is a constant challenge to do so under such bad conditions, with a lack of practice nets, a serious shortage of equipment, limited game time against other teams for our juniors and no cricket clinics in our area.’
Cavaan’s impressive efforts have, however, not gone unnoticed. Hendrik Hancke, a journalist from the local Letaba Herald newspaper, happened upon the Oaks Cricket Club one day when he was on an assignment. He started chatting to Cavaan and taking pictures of the kids playing cricket. Then he wrote an article about the club out there in the middle of nowhere. Soon after that, he contacted his friend Niel van Deventer, an award-winning producer. The two began the Field of Dreams initiative – a documentary they hoped would generate more interest in the Oaks Cricket Club.
THE ONLY WAY IS UP
After the article and the trailer for the documentary came out, Cricket South Africa became involved and local cricket authorities in the province have offered assistance and provided proper equipment. Local businesses have also come on board. Bosveld Sitrus in Letsitele, for instance, takes care of Cavaan’s salary, provides transport for the kids to and from league games and has promised to build the club a proper cricket field and training nets by the end of the year.
One man’s mission to make a difference in his community is paying off. Cavaan Moyakamela started with nothing but a love for cricket and a dream to help the young people in his community. He believes in one simple principle: if you have the passion, you can make a difference and help build a better South Africa. With passion, you can move mountains.
By Petrus Maseko