It’s the last ball of the over, in runs the young medium pacer, bowling over the wicket, off a short run-up. But what’s that in his hand? It’s The Ball. And what a delivery — right up there in the block hole. The Ball hits the batsman about knee-height on his front pad. There’s a large shout for LBW. It looks plum. The umpire’s hand goes up. He’s out. Howzat!
Thanks to the DHL cricket team for being good sports. It may not quite be the Spirit of Football, but it’s certainly the Spirit of Cricket.
Blantyre welcomes The Ball in style with a parade to the stadium from the polytechnic, DJs blaring funky music from a truck, Special Olympians leading the way with friends, family and supporters in tow.
The national stadium is the venue for the latest installment of the publicity drive that the national Special Olympics programmes are undertaking with The Ball as their catalyst and their story.
The Minister of Sport is the guest of honour, attending despite a very tight schedule on this national holiday in Malawi. Although not as forthright in his support as we would all like him to be, it sounds like he’s urging Special Olympics Malawi to redouble their efforts in producing results at international competitions before offering his full support. Still, conditional support is better than none, and SO Malawi take up the challenge and promise results.
Speeches over, it’s time for some football. A Unified football game precedes the main attraction of the day — a match between two of Malawi’s top teams: Escom and MTN Wanderers.
While the Unified game is underway, Andrew gets down to the, ahem, serious business of getting signatures on The Ball. He’s determined that all the Special Olympians present should leave their mark on it and so he heads for he stands where they are all gathered. An hour later and he’s completed his mission.
The professionals take to the field to much applause and cheering from the stands. It seems like their supporters have turned out is force, despite the game being a friendly.
The enthusiasm starts to fade in the second half, however, as it looks like the professional teams, minds probably on upcoming cup fixtures, are happy to grind out a 0-0 draw.
Many positives can be taken from this event. The organisation has been impeccable, SO Malawi are up for the Minister’s challenge (and will no doubt rise to it), there has been a great turnout from the public, and the SO athletes have had a wonderful time in the limelight. Which, in the end, is as it should be.