Cricketer goes to school

Learning: Former international cricketer Henry Ongola visiting Westwood Primary School in Clayton-le-Woods, pictured with pupils
Learning: Former international cricketer Henry Ongola visiting Westwood Primary School in Clayton-le-Woods, pictured with pupils
Share this article
Have your say

Sporting youngsters have been getting some life-lessons with a difference.

Cricket star and humanitarian Henry Olonga is in the area as a special guest of Bamber Bridge Pentecostal Church after ministry team member John Whitham and his wife met him at an event.

The former Zimbabwean international cricketer, now living in exile after being accused of treason, has spent the past few days with pupils at local primary and secondary schools taking part in various events.

A passionate Christian, Henry was invited by the Chorley Road church and during his time in the county has been talking about his faith and how it has helped shape him.

He’s also been talking to youngsters about dealing with bullies and will be the key speaker at a big family event at South Ribble Tennis Centre tonight.

Henry, who is married to an Australian and has two daughters, now lives in Somerset. He was an international for Zimbabwe who, along with team mate Andy Flower, who is now the head coach for the England national side, wore a black armband in a Cricket World Cup match to protest against the policies of Zimbabwe’s government, led by Robert Mugabe.

The protest led to a warrant being issued in Zimbabwe for Henry’s arrest on charges of treason - which carries the death penalty. He was forced to retire from international cricket and temporarily go into hiding.

Speaking yesterday, where he spent the morning with youngsters at Walton-le-Dale Primary school, he said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Lancashire. It has been mutually beneficial.”

The 36-year-old said pupils were aware of his background and were armed with a bevy of questions and added: “The main thing was to tell them how to stand up to bullies. I tried to deal with communicating within the concept of how what you do affects others.

“It has been a pretty busy schedule, going into lots of schools and it is very much part of what I do. I don’t just talk about my faith, but wider social issues impressing one people to stand up for what they believe.”

Henry made his international debut in 1995, becoming the youngest player to represent Zimbabwe, helping the country to its first ever Test victory. The fast bowler, was the first black cricketer to play for Zimbabwe.

The star is an emerging tenor and is now pursuing a career as a singer, artist, photographer and videoographer.

He has attended various events in Lancashire this week, from playing sports with pupils in Clayton-le-Woods to helping pupils at Walton-le-Dale with a project on “people who stood out and made a difference”. He was also was guest speaker at Lostock Hall Academy’s presentation evening.

South Ribble Tennis Centre is the venue for tonight’s event, which includes free sports for children, and is open to the public from 7pm.

He will also be talking at two evening services at the Bamber Bridge Church on Saturday and Sunday, which are open to the public.