The Maasai Cricket Warriors were invited for the second consecutive year to attend the 4th Laikipia Highland Peace For Sports Games that took place on the 24th September 2011 at Ol Ari Nyiro, Laikipia Nature Conservancy in Western Laikipia.
The Laikipia Highland Games aims to use the fundamental values of sport and play in fostering goodwill amongst communities, building relations, bridging divisions and contributing to improving the living conditions of youth across the tribal divide, by harnessing the natural competitive spirit of youth and the great potential of the Kenyan highlands athletes.
The Laikipia Highlands Games attracts athletes, schools, children, women, elders and diverse tribal youth dressed in their traditional attire. By giving participating tribes and communities involved in tragic disputes and rivalry an opportunity to meet in neutral ground, the Games offered tribute to the healing influence of sport, and a poignant reminder of the power of the human spirit to overcome disparity.
The 2009 edition of the LHG won the prestigious “Peace and Sport Award” for the world peace and sport event of the year, in Monaco in December 2009.
The games are an unusual and exciting combination of modern athletics and of colourful traditional tribal games that have been played amongst African tribes for generations. The following events took place: athletics, 6-a-side football, volleyball, cricket, tug-of-peace and traditional games.
Our traveling supporter and newly baptized cricket enthusiast, Vanessa Zhang (aka Maswali Mengi) shares her experience with the Maasai Cricket Warriors at the Laikipia Highland Games . . . .
We arrived at the Laikipia Nature Conservancy on Friday evening without any hiccups, having worked through three jumbo bags of popcorn and various interesting streams of conversation throughout the journey. From a distance, the reception area looked like a fairy village, with houses and huts lit by torches mirroring stars in the sky. We were welcomed warmly by the organizers, and as the Warriors retired to their quarters for the evening, we ladies went to explore our separate (and very cozy) lodging, excited for morning to arrive. This was my first time visiting Laikipia West, and tomorrow would be my very first introduction to the wonderful world of Cricket – by Maasai Warriors! I could hardly wait. . .
The Il Polei Maasai Cricket Warriors had been invited to play an exhibition cricket match at the Laikipia Highland Games against a team from the Rift Valley Cricket Club. The Games that were started in 2008 was an ingenious idea to use sports and games to promote peace amongst pastoralist communities who have been entangled in inter-tribal conflicts related to cattle rustling for many generations. This year’s games attracted representatives from no less than 10 tribal groups from all over the region. Since cricket was not yet popular or even known in the region, the exhibition game aimed to spark interest amongst the communities and promote the game of cricket. For the Maasai Warriors, this meant their second opportunity to come up against a team that plays regular competitive league cricket.
Early the following morning, we were greeted by the most glorious blue sky and a herd of zebras and gazelles right outside the hut – a great start for the day! As the matatu picked us up and drove us to the games fields, everyone was in great spirits and I was filled in on stories of adventures from the last Highland Games. It was great fun to watch the Warriors prepare their uniform and cricket equipment, looking irresistibly suave in their traditional-meets-modern cricket attire.
The day’s events began with a short ceremony of dancing and prayers, before a group of children skipped out to the stage to sing the Kenya National Anthem, signaling the start of 2011 Laikipia Highland Games. Without further ado, the track and field events began on the main field, while football and volleyball matches were held on the side fields. Not wanting to miss out on the action, our Maasai Morans (warriors) participated in the many of the competitions, including the 400m Morans’ race, long jump, and javelin events, with some very impressive results.
Finally, after many heated races and matches (even the children participated in their own children’s 100m race), it was the Maasai Cricket Warriors’ turn to take the stage. Due to time limitations, the Maasai Cricket Warriors and Rift Valley Cricket Club played a reduced 8-over match, while other athletics events happened around the field. The Cricket Warriors were forced to loan the opponents two players since they were short of players, so instead of playing a traditional eleven-a side cricket match it was a 9-man event.
The Rift Valley Cricket Club (RVCC) opted to bat first and some athletic fielding by the Maasai Cricket Warriors with 3 runouts and 2 excellent catches by Njayo and Sonyanga limited the RVCC to 43/6 in their 8 overs. Naimado proved to be the most economical bowler for the Warriors taking 1/1 while Aman was the top run scorer for the RVCC scoring 14 runs.
During the run chase the Maasai Cricket Warriors were faced with very tight spin bowling and even though Sonyanga hit the only 6 of the match and Ltemulai top scored with 15 runs including 3 hefty blows to the boundary the Maasai Cricket Warriors fell short by 2 runs, managing 41/3 in their 8 overs. The 2-run defeat indicated a very closely fought encounter and it was a great effort from the Maasai Cricket Warriors considering they were up against a team that plays regularly in the Rift Valley Cricket Association League.
After the cricket exhibition game, the day’s program ended with an extremely entertaining contest of “Tug-of-Peace”, where we witnessed the impressive strength of the Pokot women, and also the Maasai Cricket Warriors’ second defeat by the buff men from the Rift Valley Cricket Club. Our conclusion: we need to start feeding the lanky Maasai Warriors food that will make them as buff as their opponents.
After the excitement of the day, the entire Maasai Cricket Warriors contingent (coach, players and cheerers) went to the athletes’ quarters to have dinner, which consisted of a hearty feast with abundant meat on offer for all. There we also met the men and women from the Pokot and Samburu tribes who had performed at the games, an enjoyed the most exhilaratingly rowdy mix of traditional jumping dances I had ever seen. Even Patrick, our friendly matatu driver, could not resist joining in the fun, as we witnessed the first fruits of “Sports for Peace” – the official motto for the Games. The “party in the wild” continued into the early hours of the morning.
The next morning, we left the conservancy grounds with a matatu loaded with equipment and wonderful memories. As we stopped at the Thompson Falls on our way home to celebrate the end of a perfect weekend, I couldn’t help wondering when I would next get to see the Maasai Cricket Warriors in action. Soon, I hope!
(Compiled by Aliya Bauer with contributions from Vanessa Zhang)
Laikipia Highland Games 2011