Mali January 22, 2008

Cricket comes to Timbuktu

Phil Watson

Phil Watson

There has been a great deal of activity in the last two months in Mali. As well as the different Muslim and Christian festivals (Tabaski, Christmas, New Year and Muslim New Year) several members of the FeMaCrik Executive Committee have been visiting cricketers in the regions thanks to an ICC-ACA grant. In particular Sikasso, Ségou and Timbuktu.

1. Sikasso. Sikasso is the principal city of Mali’s third region and close to the Ivorian border. FeMaCrik’s Technical Director (Dr Phil Watson) and Deputy Logistics Secretary (Mr Youssouf Coulibaly) made the seven-hour coach trip in December to visit the Sikasso Cricket league. The visit included visits to the regional director of the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Art and Culture and some cricket clinics. The exciting news is that Mr Jacques Ouattara, a dynamic cricket coach and PE teacher, has returning to Sikasso after a year in Germany, and is introducing cricket into four high schools.

2 Ségou. Ségou is Mali’s second city and the principal city of Mali’s fourth region. FeMaCrik’s President (Mr Kawory Berthé) and the Malian Senior team’s Vice-Captain (Mr Mahamadou Taïfour Diaby) made the 3-4 hours coach trip in early January 2008. Having begun in 2005-6, the Ségou cricket league has had some administrative difficulties that are now being resolved. We hope there’ll soon be news of cricket being re-launched in the school system by Mr Soumaïla Toloba.

3 The introduction of cricket into Mali’s city of mysteries – Timbuktu. Timbuktu, the city of 333 saints, is the principal city of Mali’s 6th region. At over 900km from Bamako, including nearly 200kms of dirt road, access is challenging and travelling to and from Timbuktu is very tiring. After two young dynamic cricket coaches (Mr Dallamané Diallo and Mr Mamadou Berthé) were initiated at the September 2007 Cricket Coach training course, they returned to Timbuktu to introduce the sport under the auspices of the Regional Direction of the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Art and Culture. FeMaCrik’s President (Mr Kawory Berthé) and Technical Director (Dr Phil Watson) visited them recently (17-31 December) and met various local dignitaries as well as running some coaching sessions. With 16 student teachers from the Hégire (Islamic Schools) and some high school pupils getting interested, we feel that a good foundation has been laid for the development of a cricket league at Timbuktu in the near future.

4 Other visits to Koulikoro and Morila are planned in the near future.

Many thanks to Phil Watson and Tony Munro

Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo