Cricket star talks of freedom struggle

AT a time when England's cricketing stars are making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, a genuine sporting hero visited an Ipswich school to talk about his struggle for freedom.

AT a time when England's cricketing stars are making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, a genuine sporting hero visited an Ipswich school to talk about his struggle for freedom.

Henry Olonga played for Zimbabwe in two cricket world cups, but has not been back to his homeland since he and fellow cricketer Andy Flower wore black armbands to mark the death of democracy there during the 2003 world cup.

Since then the committed Christian has toured the world talking about his struggle and the sacrifice he felt compelled to make.

Yesterday he was in Ipswich talking to pupils at St Matthew's Primary School about his life.


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As well as being a talented sportsman - the first black cricketer to represent his country at test level - he is also a talented singer who has released a CD and an amateur artist.

“I'm an amateur because I haven't sold any paintings . . . so far,” he told the youngsters.

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“I think it is important to come to schools to talk to youngsters about life and to show them that not everyone in the public eye gets drunk the whole time. Not that I'm commenting on anything in the news at the moment,” he was quick to add.

Henry and his family now split their time between Britain and Australia, and he told the youngsters that he loved living in this country.

“I don't like the weather, at least not when it is snowing like it was a few minutes ago, but this country is free and that is so good,” he told them.

And with his homeland in the headlines again because of the treatment of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, he can finally see some signs of hope.

He said: “The government (of president Robert Mugabe) is getting very desperate. Now even South Africa has protested about their treatment of the opposition.

“For years they have not said anything, preferring what they called quiet diplomacy - but if even they are protesting now there might be hope of a change happening there.

“I can't see myself ever living in Zimbabwe again, I enjoy my life travelling between Britain and Australia, but it would be nice to be able to go back to my homeland to visit relatives.”

Henry Olonga:

Born in 1976, he was the first black cricketer to be selected by his country after Zimbabwe achieved test status in the 1990s.

He was a star of the 1999 cricket world cup when Zimbabwe defeated more established countries to reach the knock-out phase.

After his last match for Zimbabwe - in the 2003 World Cup - Olonga had to be rescued by South African police after a security team was sent from his homeland to take him back against his will.

Although he no longer plays professional cricket, he does play for the Lashings charity team - and played at St Joseph's College last year.

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