United hit 70 not out

Legends honoured at dinner to mark association’s anniversary

United Brothers Cricket Club officials, manager Vusumzi Gonya, left, and organiser Siyabonga Selani, will celebrate with club legend Vusani Pamba on Saturday
United Brothers Cricket Club officials, manager Vusumzi Gonya, left, and organiser Siyabonga Selani, will celebrate with club legend Vusani Pamba on Saturday
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Zwide-based cricket club United Brothers will host a gala dinner to celebrate their 70th year of existence at the KwaMagxaki Hall on Saturday.

All of 10 of their club’s legends will be awarded blazers in appreciation of the roles they have played throughout the years.

United Brothers, who managed their highest finish in the NMB Premier League in second spot, were formed in Bethelsdorp in 1948, moving to Veeplaas before making Zwide’s Dan Qeqe Stadium their home.

Since then the club has grown tremendously with the addition of an U11 to U17 males and U13 to U19 females development structure.

They have been a feeder to the Eastern Province cricket side and have also groomed players Ayabulela Gqamane (Warriors and SA A) and Lutho Sipamla (Warriors and SA U19).

Having produced results throughout the years with very little budget, manager Vusumzi Gonya said the club saw fit to celebrate its milestone.

“As management, we felt that we needed to celebrate this milestone having been in existence for 70 years,” he said.

“Added to that, the club did extremely well this season under the leadership of coach Abongile Sodumo.

“We finished the season as the runners-up in the Premier League and managed to go unbeaten at Dan Qeqe for the whole season.

“We did all of that with no budget or resources – we don’t have a sponsor.

“We felt that we should celebrate our achievement this season plus the milestone we have reached as a club.

“We will have club awards and also honour the legends who were part of the club way back with club blazers.

“These include the likes of Peter Bacela, a retired cricket commentator who used to play for the club.

“When I started playing for United Brothers he was still here playing, but I was a junior at the time.

“The club was under the leadership of Lennox ‘Skipper’ Ngxe at that time.”

When Ngxe retired, Gonya said, the younger guys took over and, over the years, the club has expanded.

“The club has grown tremendously – we have development structures for boys and girls and the juniors are a feeder to the senior teams,” he said.

“Also part of the club is a hub which is financed by Cricket South Africa and under the guidance of our senior coach.

“The programme allows children from disadvantaged backgrounds to obtain scholarships to attend the former Model C schools.

“As a result of this programme, we have four children who are at Muir College and one at Graeme College.

“We also have a girl, Siyamtanda Majikazana, who plays for the provincial team and is studying at Strelitzia High through the scholarship.

“Other success stories are Ayabulela Gqamane, who plays for the Warriors and SA A side, and Onke Nyaku, who plays for EP.

“Lutho Sipamla, who made the SA U19 squad in 2016 for the Cricket World Cup, grew up playing in our junior structures and received a bursary to study at Grey High.

“We also have four players who are part of the EP Academy.”

Despite all these achievements, Gonya said their biggest struggle was with getting sponsorships.

Club legend Vusani Pamba, 65, one of the cricketers who will be honoured on Saturday, spoke of the good old days.

“I joined the club in 1967 at the Dan Qeqe Stadium,” he said.

“It was open veld here and there was no fencing. It was really challenging but we were young and wanted to play cricket.”

Head coach Sodumo applauded his players on a job well done.

However, he said the challenge now would be on working on a winning formula for next season.

“When I came into the club two years ago I had a three-year plan,” he said.

“The first year was to compete and then the second season to aim for top four, which we were successful with.

“The challenge for me will be how are we going to go about winning the league.

“Obviously there are challenges when [we] don’t have resources.

“We have nets, but they are not in good shape, so we work on our fitness and fielding because those are things we can control.”