Article for local newspapers
“Welcome to the world of cricket!” Warmly welcomed a representative of the Sierra Leonean Cricket Association to its newcomers – Blind players!
Šárka Pechová, Freetown/ On Saturday morning Street Cricket for the blind and visually impaired was officially launched in Freetown. Recognized by the International Cricket Association the “gentleman´s sport” for blind and visually impaired people is now officially a part of Sierra Leone´s sports scene.
When first mentioned, many could not imagine how blind people could possibly play cricket. But there was one man who knew, David Turner – a cricket enthusiast and supporter of the UK organisation, Cricket for Change, which aims to make a positive difference to the lives of disadvantaged people through sport.
Actually, it is very simple. In the cricket ball there is a simple ‘shaker’ device that makes a noise when the ball is in motion. So the blind players don´t see, but hear the ball. It is challenging, especially in the beginning, but as chairman of the launch, Dr. Abdulai Dumbuya pointed out, “Demonstrate your skills, not your disability.”
And the dozen players present made sure they did! But furthermore, they had a great time practicing the sport.
“Sport is about enjoyment and fun, “explained David, Coordinator of the Programme and main coach. “I see many smiling faces around,” he added. However, the fact, that blind people are practicing sport has, according to David, an important role in terms of perception of disabled people. With a little alteration to the ball they can enjoy the same leisure time as the non-disabled. They are now seen as achievers, which is very important.
At the moment the players are not competing, but they aim to enter international competitions as soon as possible. “We would love to play in the international games,” empathised the highest scoring player of the day, Mr Henri O´Tucker.
“I see the launching of the Cricket for the blind and visually impaired as a great leap forward for disabled sports in Sierra Leone, “ said Mr Joseph O´Reilly Campbell, Second General of the Sierra Leone Paralympic Committee. “To the London Paralympic Games in 2012 we are sending two athletes, but the next in 2016, who knows? It would be great to also send a Blind Cricket team to represent our country!” Mr Campbell encouraged the players.
The next goal for Street Cricket, as the association is called, is to introduce the sport to all schools for the blind and visually impaired in Sierra Leone. The aim is that all the schools would have equipment to practice the sport and the teachers to know the rules.
The players practice every Saturday morning at the grounds of Constance Cummings John Memorial Junior Secondary School, opposite the Connaught Hospital in central Freetown and as the players said, new colleagues to the team are always welcome.
Street Cricket in Sierra Leone is kindly supported by Lime line and Helen Keller.