Saturday, June 23, 2012

LETTERS TO OOM SCHALK - A Letter I have been meaning to write...

Dear Oom Schalk,

As I get older and tomorrow's breakfast becomes a beacon of hope, rather than a brashly accepted 'fait accompli'. I realise that there are many letter's I should write before the sickle of The Grim Reaper, silences, the scrawling scratch of my pen.

This thought was strengthened immeasurably last evening as I gazed at a fine South African winter sunset and savoured a warming Klipdrift. It was framed by memories that I have of the entertainment provided to me by great legions of South African sportsmen and women over the years - whom I have never had the opportunity to thank.

Ja Nee Oom Schalk... Boyhood memories of crackling short wave broadcasts, where the voice of Charles Fortune would regale my anxious ears with an eloquent description of  Bill Lawry shaking his head as  Pollock and Richards gracefully dispatched his bowlers to all corner's of the ground.

The excitement that Gerhard Viviers instilled into the fleet feet of Syd Nomis as he scythed through the back line of the mighty All Blacks, to intercept and score at Loftus in 1970. His description of the Piet Visagie drop goal still lingers... "Dis 'n lang skop... Dis 'n ver skop, en, en, en dis dwars deur die pale!"

I can never forget the sense of pride I felt when Baby Jake Matlala, at four foot and eleven inches high, boxed his way to  glory. The joy I felt when Willie Mtolo won the New York Marathon and Zola Budd ran the rest of the world ragged, barefoot to victory!
In celebrating their success, I became, in a manner attached to it - I became, "a piece of the maine, a part of the continent", as John Donne wrote in his epic meditation, - "No man is an island, entire of itself .." and it is these insular moments, that unite us, as a nation, as a people - in a way that politics  lacks!

Thirty one years ago, a Springbok Rugby team ran onto a field in Christchurch to test their skill against an All Black side intent on victory. In terms of pure theatre, it was game of rugby, the like of which, one will never see again! The Grandstand's and sidelines became a violent battleground...

Anti-Apartheid Demonstrators, determined to invade the pitch and stop the match, fought pitched battles with policemen and spectators.  In the midst of this, a light aircraft began a series of bombing runs, peppering the playing surface with flour bombs and flares!! ... The two teams looked in each others eyes and with an unspoken nod, decided to play on.

One can judge them according to one's own conscience - there was great division in our country at the time and that particular Rugby Test certainly placed South Africa firmly on the path toward sporting isolation - and change!

That was 1981 Oom Schalk. Fourteen years later, the same two countries played each other in a Test Match at Ellis Park, that had a very different outcome. The Springboks played and beat the All Blacks and won the Rugby World Cup Final of 1995... Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar hoisted the William Webb Ellis Trophy skyward and united a Nation!

There was an aeroplane involved in that epic game as well - A Jumbo 747! In the wind, beneath it's wings, it carried a message of hope, which the world applauded...

Ja Nee Oom Schalk, I have been royally entertained by the Sporting Men and Women of our wonderful country - I have felt and lived their pride in victory and cried with them in their moments of defeat. To all of them I owe a sincere, Thank You, for the wonderful entertainment!

When next we meet again, perhaps a good Cape Pinotage, will release futher sporting memories to which we can raise a glass. Perhaps one bottle won't be enough!

Die Uwe,
Spyker Koekemoer

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