June 11, 2013
Laureus.com speaks to one of our newest Ambassadors, the Springbok sevens star Cecil Afrika. He talks about how sport offered him a life of hope as he grew up in a South Africa township and how his charity sports work with Laureus is a true passion for the future.
He was just a small boy from a township in South Africa. Life was a challenge here, and the threat of being drawn into a life of crime all too powerful.
This youngster, however, had other ideas. And he insists it all came from rugby.
“Wherever we could find space we would play the game. That was it for me. That’s when I started to love the game and decided that this is what I wanted to be.”
The kid from that Port Elizabeth township is now one of the rising stars of the Springbok rugby sevens. His name is Cecil Afrika. And having emerged as one of his country’s brightest sporting prospects, he appreciates how important the game was to him when it came to keeping on the straight and narrow.
“Sport played such a big part in the way I grew up. In our community there were a lot of gangsters, gangsterism. I told myself I didn’t want to be a part of that. I wanted to have a better life and rugby was the way out. Rugby teaches you to be disciplined, to work hard, to appreciate what you have.”
Despite being a fearsome fly half with awesome speed, Cecil is softly spoken in conversation. It is a tone that reflects the thoughtfulness and compassion inherent in why he was so eager to better his own life.
Looking back to the positive life choices he made as a youngster, he says: “I knew it was going to be tough, but I wanted to be a person who could give my mum and dad a better life. I say thanks to God for giving me that opportunity.”
There can be no doubt Cecil has made the most of that opportunity. And as a young South African, he certainly had a lot of inspiration in helping him get there.
“There were so many role models for me growing up. Chester Williams inspired me to become a Springbok. I admired Bryan Habana. And Gio Aplon, (who also played sevens like me). He showed me you didn’t have to be big [Cecil is 5’9” in height] to compete on the big stage”
Now in 2013, Cecil finds himself not only a Springbok role model himself, but also a Laureus Ambassador alongside his inspiration Bryan Habana. And testament to how important it is to him to lead a positive life, Cecil is excited about the work he can achieve.
“I want to touch people’s lives. To give opportunities for others to fulfil their dreams in the future. If I can make a difference in just one or two young lives, then that would be an achievement for me.
“To be part of Laureus along with Bryan Habana and Morné du Plessis means I can hopefully touch people’s lives and make a difference through sport. I’m excited for the journey!”
South Africa appreciates how powerful sport can be in bringing people together better than perhaps anywhere else in the world.
The Rugby World Cup of 1995 will forever be remembered for helping heal the scars of the country’s apartheid past and bringing black South Africans into what was traditionally a white sport.
Now this Sport for Good message truly has a champion in Cecil. And, as he takes us back to a story from the day South Africa won the Rugby World Cup in 1995, it’s clear it is a belief he treasures deeply.
“I can’t say I was really watching that game. I was playing outside myself at the time! But all of a sudden the whole community was making a sound. I said, ‘Mummy, Daddy, what’s going on?’ They said we had won the world cup. I just started screaming and was so happy, but I didn’t really know what was happening.
“But then I started to learn the game more and what it meant to South Africa. It really meant a lot to us.”
Cecil can be confident that his passion for helping others continues that tournament’s great memory of using sport to make the world a better place.