Gary Kirsten employs cricket to guide youngsters in slums away from substance abuse

World Cup-winning coach Gary Kirsten, known for steering India to victory in 2011, has set out on a mission to transform the narrative of this struggling community through the game of cricket.

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Virat Kohli & Gary Kirsten of the RCB
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Virat Kohli & Gary Kirsten. (Photo Source: Twitter)

In the heart of Khayelitsha, a township infamous for its struggles with drugs, crime, and poverty, a beacon of hope is emerging, not on the streets but on the cricket pitch. World Cup-winning coach Gary Kirsten, known for steering India to victory in 2011, has set out on a mission to transform the narrative of this struggling community through the game of cricket.

Returning to his roots after the triumph in India, Kirsten was dismayed to find a lack of cricketing activity in Khayelitsha. Determined to make a difference, he initiated the Catch Trust Foundation in 2014, originally known as the Gary Kirsten Foundation. The primary goal? To steer the youth away from the clutches of drugs and violence and towards the cricket field.

"When I came back from India, I wanted to have a look at cricket in our poorest neighbourhoods in Cape Town," Kirsten recalled in an interview, as quoted by NDTV. 

"I took a tour of the area with local school authorities and found that no cricket was happening which disappointed me a lot. I thought of this centre and we started with two concrete nets in two schools and then included three more schools," Kirsten said.

Kirsten's foundation, much like his disciplined cricketing career, is gradually changing lives. "It is helping me to avoid street things like smoking weed and helping me keep my body and lungs fit. I see myself as a future South African player," says Lukholo Malong, a 15-year-old aspiring spinner.

The foundation operates in five schools within Khayelitsha, claiming to have positively impacted over 1000 children aged five to 19. A flourishing women's team has also emerged, with some girls reaching the provincial representation level.

"Talent is universal, opportunity is not," reads the guiding principle of the foundation. The aim is to create sporting ecosystems in low-income areas, breaking the barriers that often deprive talented individuals of opportunities. Lukholo Malong, drawing inspiration from Virat Kohli, dreams of playing for South Africa one day.

"Kohli is my favourite player as he keeps motivating us and we learn not to give up, push hard and keep going, we will be something one day. I have seen him on the field in Cape Town but will meet him one day," he added embodying the resilience fostered by the foundation.

Also Read: Virat Kohli’s absence doesn’t weaken India even if he is one of the greatest players: David Lloyd

Established in 1983 during the Apartheid era, Khayelitsha has a population of over 2.4 million, primarily Black Africans. Residents face challenges, including limited access to clean water. The foundation's intention is clear: to create sports opportunities for the youth in these challenging circumstances.

"I always believed that there are four pillars to create opportunities for talented players, they are good equipment, good facilities, good coaching and matches to play. We have created this in Khayelitsha," Kirsten stated while emphasizing the comprehensive approach adopted by the foundation.

Babalwa Zothe, a female coach with the foundation, emphasized the transformative impact of cricket training on the kids. 

"We are coaching in three primary schools and two high schools. (We) primarily take kids from the schools who are interested. We allow other kids also to come and play with us so it's for everyone in the community," Zothe said.

Creation of quality sporting and life skills, developing their talents on and off the field is the motto: Kirsten

The foundation's efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2019, they took 13 young players and two coaches from Khayelitsha to the World Cup in the UK. Renowned players like Makhaya Ntini have visited, inspiring the young talents to excel both on and off the field.

"Creation of quality sporting and life skills programmes to keep kids off the streets and developing their talents on and off the field is the motto behind the centre. Many renowned players like Makhaya Ntini have visited and encouraged them to do well," Kirsten concluded.

Also Read: 'Gary Kirsten asked us not to read newspapers' - Harbhajan Singh reveals lesser-known story from ODI World Cup 2011

Gary Kirsten's determination, once evident in his cricketing prowess, now fuels the foundation's mission to create opportunities for underprivileged youth. The Catch Trust Foundation is not just about cricket; it's about building a future for the kids of Khayelitsha, one inning at a time.

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