WINDHOEK – From playing cricket for fun as a teenager with friends, to now playing as a fulltime professional. Namibian cricketer Pikky Ya France recently sat down with New Era Sport, where he touched on a raft of issues, including his undying love for the sport, the dwindling number of black cricketers and what the future holds for his career, among other topics.
Born as Helao Nafidi Ya France in Windhoek 29 years ago, ‘Pikky’ as Ya France is affectionately known in local and international cricket circles, remains one of Namibia’s rare success stories of a young black cricketer who dreamt of nothing but playing the sport he most loves – cricket.
During the recent sit-down interview with this publication, Ya France said his love for cricket developed many moons ago when he was an 11-year-old boy, after he was introduced to the sport by his close friend at primary school.
“My introduction to cricket was basically through a close friend of mine Jane Karuaihe. I was exposed to all types of sport codes that were offered at school at the time, and they were mainly rugby, cricket, swimming and soccer. As a child, I, my brother and my friend used to play backyard cricket and during the summer when the school offered cricket we would also partake in the sport,” said Ya France, who has amassed 26 One Day International (ODI) caps and 14 Twenty20 (T20) caps for the national team across various competitions.
At the age of 13, Ya France and his brother were enrolled at a local cricket academy, under the guidance of former national team cricketer Deon Coetzee. Under Coetzee, Ya France went on to be selected for the national under-13 team that toured Zimbabwe.
After the Zimbabwe tour, Ya France kept his head down perfecting his new-found craft and his efforts and hard work again paid off when he was selected to be part of the under-19 team that toured South Africa.
After the South Africa tour, at the age of 15, it eventually struck in Ya France’s mind that he needed to pursue cricket as a profession.
“When I was 15 or 16 years of age, I was selected in another touring national team that went to South Africa – it was that moment when it basically struck me that I needed to take this (cricket) up further and that’s when I started concentrating predominantly on my cricket career.”
“When I got selected for the national under-19 World Cup team that went to play in the 2008 World Cup in Malaysia, it opened up my eyes and I realised the opportunities that cricket had bestowed on me and that’s when started taking cricket seriously and made it a profession.”
But unlike other sport codes that are widely dominated by players of colour, it is no secret that in Namibia cricket is enjoyed by a small group of the white minority and has for many years remained systematically reserved for the handful of so-called white sport clubs.
And almost 30 years since Namibia gained her independence from the South African apartheid regime, it remains a massive scaling task for local aspiring black cricketers to break down the inherited barriers of systematic exclusion from the local cricket setup.
But Ya France somewhat through trial and error managed to carve himself a place in the annals of local cricket when he became one of Namibia’s most active and celebrated black cricketers of the new dawn.
“At the time I started playing club cricket, there was a cricket club in the north (Oshakati). That club was very much instrumental in producing black players, but for some strange reason they never went far. To be honest, during my entry years as a cricketer, there weren’t many black cricketers but currently when you look at our national setup, there are about five players of colour, which I think is a great improvement when compared to about eight years ago. It’s quite an achievement. I think if everyone comes together and starts creating opportunities for all, I believe more players of colour can come through,” said all-rounder Ya France, who is a highly celebrated left-handed batsman and right-handed bowler.
“I think people should also try to understand and realise that cricket in Namibia that is not a generational thing where you look at the history of Namibia. We were colonised by Germans who do not play cricket compared to a country like Zimbabwe, which was colonised by Britain that actually started the game of cricket. That’s why cricket in Zimbabwe is so big and continues to flourish, and if you look at the Zimbabwean national teams, they are dominated by players of colour compared to Namibia.”
Ya France adds that if cricket authorities can expose the sport in different parts of the country, they will be able to get more people of colour involved.
“I think it’s also about exposure, if you expose more people to the game especially in the north and eastern areas of Namibia, I believe in the next couple of years more players of colour will come through and represent the country,” adds a confident Ya France.
2019-10-08 08:11:26 | 9 days ago