Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 03/04/2012

Reporter: Ginny Stein

A cricket team composed of Maasai warriors from northern Kenya has landed in South Africa with high hopes on-field and off.



Maasai warriors take to the cricket pitch

Maasai warriors take to the cricket pitch

EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: In northern Kenya, a most unlikely cricket team has emerged with extremely high hopes both on and off the field. 

For Kenya’s Maasai warriors, cricket is more than a game; it’s a vehicle which could make the difference between life and death. 

Africa correspondent Ginny Stein caught up with the team when they touched down in South Africa.

GINNY STEIN, REPORTER: After their first ever flight, Kenya’s Maasai Cricket Warriors arrive in Johannesburg in style.

They departed Kenya amidst a furore over what they should wear: traditional tribal clothes or traditional cricket whites. Not that there was ever any real doubt.

SONGYANGA GNAIS, MAASAI CRICKET WARRIORS CAPTAIN: For sure we are very, very happy. This is just a dream that, you know, that just came true.

GINNY STEIN: Getting to Cape Town for the world championships of this limited overs competition was a fund-raising challenge. First stop once there: a shopping centre like they’ve never seen before.

Donated bats which arrived the night before their first game still needing to be knocked in.

Opening batsman Francis Tepela says the challenge is immense but he believes only in one outcome.

FRANCIS TEPELA: OK, tomorrow we must win, because it will be our first international tournament so we must win.

GINNY STEIN: The rebel Last Man Stands tournament was declared open in the hallowed members room of Newland’s Cricket Ground.

More than 40 teams from around the world, and Kenya’s national champions, the Maasai Warriors.

The draw is announced. The Warriors’ first game will be against the highly regarded South African Crocodiles.

Game day and the team is put through its paces. They’ve travelled for days to get here and this is their first chance to practice in almost a week.

Kenya’s Maasai warriors began playing cricket a little over two years ago. As role models in their community, they’ve taken to spreading social health messages to a new generation.

Coach Aliya Bauer, a South African cricket fan, has been the driving force in introducing cricket to the traditionally nomadic Maasai.

ALIYA BAUER: The boys, they are playing cricket, but they’ve come to spread very important social messages.

GINNY STEIN: They’ve swapped their spears for bats, with cricket now their weapon against the spread of HIV, female genital mutilation and child marriages.

Last Man Stands cricket is now played across three continents including Australia. There are hopes it will go further.

BJORN BRIGGS, LAST MAN STANDS CO-FOUNDER: Last Man Stands is eight a side, 20 over cricket for guys that are crazy about cricket but don’t have a lot of time. It’s very grass-roots. The games last two hours, it’s quick, easy, and it’s really a game developed to take it to all corners of the world and hence you can see the guys playing on the field now.

GINNY STEIN: The Maasai warriors may not win, but they have become the tournament’s favourites.

ROB STEVENSON, LAST MAN STANDS AUSTRALIA: Spectacular to see them here, especially in this location. These guys have never been out of Kenya before. They’re going alright at the moment. We’re a bit worried to see how they batted, but it’s going OK.

GINNY STEIN: The first game completed didn’t quite go to plan. It was close, but South Africa’s Crocodiles won on the day.

FRANCIS TEPELA: The game goes like that. In fact we played to our best but we lost the game, but we expect another game we have to play, that is tomorrow.

ALIYA BAUER: The boys definitely didn’t disappoint. That put out 105 for the loss of one wicket, which was a good score considering the score board wasn’t working.

GINNY STEIN: For the Maasai there has been one challenge they weren’t quite prepared for. It might be sunny, but it is certainly not like home.

FRANCIS TEPELA: Here is very cold compared to our country which is very hot. About 37 degrees.

GINNY STEIN: Traditional clothing works well in warm climes, but not so much in Cape Town.

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