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Cricketer Darren Ganga: Madiba an inspiration

By STEPHON NICHOLAS Friday, December 6 2013

click on pic to zoom in
Daren's gift: Daren Ganga, right, present his West Indies Test cap, to Achmat Dangor, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Centra of Memory in Johannesburg, Sout...
Daren's gift: Daren Ganga, right, present his West Indies Test cap, to Achmat Dangor, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Centra of Memory in Johannesburg, Sout...

Former West Indies opening batsman, Daren Ganga, has expressed shock and sadness at the news of the death of world icon and ex-South African President Nelson Mandela yesterday.

“Madiba” passed away at age 95 at his home yesterday, plunging the world into mourning at the death of the great man.

After spending 27 years in prison, Mandela became president of South Africa and found himself with the task of unifying a fragmented nation. A man soft-spoken with powerful words, Mandela also knew the power of sport and used rugby in his homeland to heal some of the wounds of racial divide caused by apartheid.

On the West Indies first tour of South Africa post-apartheid in 1998, Ganga got the opportunity to speak to the great man. Then 19 years old and the youngest player on the team, Ganga got the shock of his life when he received a phone call from Mandela for his birthday on January 14, 1999. After the West Indies played their hosts at Newlands Ground in Cape Town, Ganga was at the team hotel when the President called.

Mandela told the ex-Trinidad and Tobago captain he was an inspiration to the South African youths and praised him for making the regional team at such a young age.

Recalling his interaction with Mandela, Ganga said, “It was my first international tour and I was very young. I will always remember it. (His demeanour) was one of humility and class. A lot of what I have done in life is because of his inspiration,” Ganga explained.

“As if it were not enough that the great Nelson Mandela had personally called me out of the blue, the President went on to say that he had arranged a surprise for me.. As soon as I hung up on the phone there was a knock on the door and a table was brought in loaded with cake, ice cream and champagne...for days thereafter I remained in shock and amazement,” the former national captain revealed in a previous speech.

Yesterday, Ganga was in a sombre mood, “I am shocked to hear of his passing. The world was anticipating his passing but I am still shocked hearing it now. The world has lost an icon and someone who has changed history and revolutionised a generation,” he declared.

The Trinidad and Tobago Sports Ambassador noted that the establishment of his Daren Ganga Foundation was because of his desire to make a difference in society after meeting the former Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The Foundation celebrated Mandela Day on July 18 this year with coaching clinics and a celebrity T20 cricket match in Tobago, raising funds for charities.

“I made a promise when I presented my Test cap to the Nelson Mandela Foundation (last year) to annually commemorate him for the impact he has made in my life as a mark of respect and gratitude,” he concluded.

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