By Charles Randall
28 December 2012
Friends of the drowned South African township cricketer Masixole 'Hassan' Mkrakra have been given grief counselling after his death at the age of 20 in a flooded quarry while saving a friend.
At the Sporting Heroes dinner at Lord's in March, Mkrakra was given a rousing ovation by a celebrity audience after his moving speech about the dreams and aspirations of players in the Tiger Titans, a club offering cricket for under-privileged young people in Bathurst on the Eastern Cape.
Just before Christmas he went bathing in the disused quarry with several other Nolukhanyo township boys to wash the white clay off their bodies in their last week in the bush, symbolising their passage to manhood. Hassan and a few others decided to use empty two-litre bottles as floats in a well-known danger area so they could go for a swim and cool down in the heat. A friend called Anele started slipping under, and Hassan gave him one of his bottles to keep him afloat. Anele survived, but this left Hassan in difficulties and he disappeared. His body was pulled out several hours later.
Anyone attending that Lord's evening would be stunned by the news, and tributes for Mkrakra poured in from all over South Africa. Martin Scholtz, chief executive of the President's Award for Youth Empowerment in South Africa, said: "Having had the privilege of going with Hassan to London in March where he got a standing ovation for his speech reflecting on the impact of The President's Award and the Tiger Titans on his life, I feel enormous sadness at this tragedy".
The Tiger Titans coach Duduzi Mkalipi said several members of the award-winning sports club were struggling to come to terms with Hassan’s sudden death. "He was Mr Tiger Titans, a real inspiration for everyone to reach for their dreams, despite the hardships they faced," he said. "Everyone looked up to Hassan."
Moyisi Blou, 19, said he was battling to come to terms with watching rescuers pull his best friend’s lifeless body from the water. He said: "There were about 20 youngsters at the quarry when Hassan went under. Everyone was crying when he disappeared, we were very scared. I am still having horrible nightmares everytime I think about it.
The Tiger Titans club was set up in 2007 by farmer's son Ross McCreath at the age of 14 to keep local boys occupied. McCreath and his mother Anne -- "Mama Tiger" -- are still involved in what has become a flourishing award-winning sports institution. Outside South Africa, in 2010 Ross was recognised by the British youth support charity, the Peter Cruddas Foundation, as one of 10 International Social Innovators.