South African sports commentary legend Trevor Quirk has made an impassioned plea for the country’s youngsters to be given every opportunity to rub shoulders with the world’s greatest athletes, and he believes it is “completely unacceptable” there are not more Wayde van Niekerks coming through the ranks
Mr Quirk was the keynote speaker at a fund-raising breakfast for Huis Luckoff home for the aged at the Kelvin Grove Club in Newlands on Thursday August 18, and while the occasion was celebrated with music and other entertainment, the former first-class cricketer pulled no punches in making his feelings felt on the state of South African sport.
“Why in this country are we achieving so little (in the sports arena)? Wayde van Niekerk achieved the most extraordinary world record at the Olympics, but where are the other Wayde van Niekerks?” he asked in his address to hundreds of guests.
“Nothing raises the spirit of a country and brings people together like achievement on the sports field. We can look back to the 1995 Rugby World Cup when Nelson Mandela came out in Francois Pienaar’s No 6 Springbok jersey. That gesture was one of the greatest reconciliation acts ever. Suddenly you had black people supporting the Springboks, and, a year later, white people got behind Bafana Bafana as they won the African Cup of Nations.”
He said Van Niekerk’s performance in Rio provided just such a “magic moment” for South Africans.
“We have had to wait so long for another magic moment. Our man broke Michael Johnson’s amazing record in style, but we should not be waiting so long for these moments. South African sportsmen and women are beautiful athletes, but nothing can be done without hope, opportunity and confidence. Our athletes need to rub shoulders with giants.”
A dire lack of financial backing was severely hampering the country’s sports people, he said.
“In these Olympics, Team Great Britain spent more on preparing its badminton team than South African did on all our athletes in 12 years. I know we have many priorities in this country – providing housing and alleviating poverty – but we also need to give our sports youngsters a chance. We need to develop academies and sports institutes so that we can have the greatest sportsmen on the planet. Our Wayde van Niekerk moments should be happening every day.”
Long considered the voice of South African cricket, Mr Quirk had been scheduled to be joined by another commentary icon and friend, Robin Jackman, who unfortunately was called away to attend to a personal matter and could not attend the breakfast.
That, however, did not stop Mr Quirk from sharing some of his fondest memories of the former England fast bowler, who he dubbed the “Silver Fox”, or the “Flying Fox after a few beverages in the pub”.
“We have toured the world together as commentators, and believe me when I tell you that when you are in some difficult places you form an exceptional bond,” he said.
“On one occasion we were stranded at Delhi Airport in India. One of the facts of India is that because cricket is a religion there, you are automatically a celebrity as a commentator. Because of this we managed to talk our way into the VIP lounge, which we were sure would have a beverage or two. Unfortunately, it didn’t – the fridge wasn’t even plugged in.”
Fortunately (or unfortunately), the pair were again recognised and told to go to the international part of the airport, where they spent the next five hours drinking.
“After this time, we thought there would be taxis available but the streets were completely deserted, and we needed to get back to the domestic part of the airport as soon as possible. Then we spotted a wallah (merchant). I asked him how much would he take for his bicycle, and he said 200 rupees, which was about R25. Of course we paid.
“I got on the saddle and the Fox sat on where you would put the basket on the bicycle, but it wouldn’t move. That was when the Fox came up with a new plan. He told me he will peddle and I should run alongside the bicycle, and when he had built up a head of steam I should jump on. So this is exactly what we did … except when I leapt on, there was a loud explosion. The tyre had burst, and when we next looked up, there was the wallah shaking with laughter.”
The annual fundraiser drew guests from all over the city and they enjoyed raffles and auctions over breakfast.
Huis Luckoff manager Christo van Lill said R60 000 had been raised by the breakfast. “We are very happy, and I am so proud of the organisers. Trevor Quirk was amazing. It was a pity Robin Jackman couldn’t be there, but he had to be with his family and we all understand,” he said.
The proceeds will be used to upgrade facilities at Huis Luckoff, which according to Mr Van Lill had been neglected for many years.
“We will be using the money to paint and do repairs. We will also be addressing some safety issues.”