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Tribute To a Coach, a Father

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on February 11, 2022 13:10

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It takes a village to bring up a child. And it takes a special community to bridge differences of income, of background and, let us say it, of race. Two young men testified to this recently when they honored a father in a moment of sporting spirit.

In a small, dusty town in rural South Africa, remarkable athletic talent emerges. Is it something in the water of this almost-desert region? The school’s long-distance coach, Andries Greeff, had heard of a boy who showed great athletic potential but whose circumstances did not allow his mother to send him to secondary school. With help from the community, a scholarship was organized, and Mahomed Batsi found a place in the secondary school and its hostel.

Mahomed studying. Photo A Greeff

Mahomed’s single-minded dedication to his sport and schoolwork soon earned the respect and friendship of fellow athletes and teachers. A comradeship developed with Raubie Jordaan, a sprinter like his father, as they trained and studied together.

Raubi Jordaan, sprinter. Photo Jordaan family

Training and perseverance paid off. Mahomed achieved a personal best of 20:01 minutes in the 6 kilometer cross-country event at the 2021 South African championships. His friend, Raubie, recently equaled his father’s record of 10:64 seconds for the 100 meter sprint on a grass track. The latter was a bitter-sweet moment, though, as his father and coach had passed away late in 2021.

Long-distance runner. Photo H de Smidt

At the school championships, in 21 January, Raubie entered the 400 meter event, dedicating it to his late father. Mahomed, without the support of a father, and whose mother had recently lost her job and could not afford to attend, joined him. The two boys competed in a spirit of mutual support and comradeship. Raubie wanted to commemorate his father’s support and example. Mahomed wanted to pay his respects to his friend’s father and to his coach, Andries Greeff, who had often stood in as a father figure. Neither boy had a father to support, to encourage him to keep running, or to keep him moving forward. But they have comradeship and mutual respect.

Comrades in sport. Photo H de Smidt

Sport can bring together people from different backgrounds and build a common effort, goal, and purpose. And a community’s investment in young people is richly rewarded by the sporting spirit and dedication of young men like these. Their embrace after the race symbolized their shared loss, aspirations, and dedication, and shared hopes for the future.

A teacher at their school commented: “Moments like these give you hope for the future of our country. The empathy and camaraderie and passion for the sport is deeply touching.”

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on February 11, 2022 13:10

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Source: WTOP Sports

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