It’s been a grey and rainy month here in Durban, but the skies cleared up beautifully for PPI-SA’s 22nd CityWide Tournament at Hoy Park this past weekend. The much welcomed sunshine and blue skies set a tone of perfection for the day from the very start, and the event lived up to its billing. With 18 teams representing 5 different communities, 4 basketball courts operating simultaneously, numerous volunteers taking time out of their weekend to help out, a special visit from the KZN Marlins pro basketball team, and a couple of bittersweet goodbyes to some very important members of the PPI family, the day proved to be memorable in more ways than one.
Boys and girls teams from our primary school programme (PSP) bussed in from Wentworth, Umlazi, Lamontville, Waterloo, and the City to compete against each other throughout the day for a shot to take home the coveted CityWide championship trophy.
On the girls side, both Lamontville teams, Bhekaphambili and Excelsior, ripped through the competition on the way to an all-Lamontville final. The girls from each of those two schools are among the most committed in the entire programme, and they showcased that commitment and passion leads to positive results. Excelsior ended up beating Bhekaphambili in a closely-contested final to take home the girls Championship.
For the boys, an exciting day of games all boiled down to the championship game that everyone wanted to see: Carrington Primary School from the City against Cwebezela Primary School from Umlazi. With the rest of the teams all crowded around the championship court, Carrington pulled out the come-from-behind victory on an ill-advised (and miraculous) half-court shot with 19 seconds left to squeak out a one-point win. It was an incredibly fitting ending to an incredible day.
Also on hand at the tournament were some members of the KZN Marlins, Durban’s franchise in the new South African pro basketball league. The Marlins players, which we are proud to say included 2 former PPI-SA participants, introduced themselves to the kids, talked a bit about themselves and their paths to pro basketball, and spent the rest of the day helping out wherever they could, whether it was shooting baskets with kids when their teams weren’t playing, or helping coach on the sidelines with our dedicated volunteer coaches. It was great having the Marlins players connect with the kids and promote the sport and new pro league, since basketball opportunities beyond PeacePlayers have been all too slim over the past several years down here.
All in all, the successful CityWide Tournament was a perfect, if bittersweet, send-off for two important members of the PPI family. It was the last PPI event for Managing Director Marcel van der Heever and International Fellow Kristin Degou, both who have devoted the past two years of their lives to PeacePlayers – South Africa and the children, coaches, and communities we serve.
These two selfless individuals will be sorely missed, but never forgotten. Once a PeacePlayer, always a PeacePlayer!
In case you missed it, last week we posted about what CityWide has meant to past participants who now serve as PPI coaches. Check it out for some inspirational reading about the power of sport!
And a special thanks to our partners: the Sport for Social Change Network -Southern Africa, the Brooklyn Nets and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, whose generosity made the CityWide Tournament possible.