“We Want to be in the spotlight too.” Sierra Leone’s Women’s Cricket Team Interview from Botswana

By: Nadim Bart-Williams

Linda Bull (c), Adama Kamara, Aminata Kamara, Ann Marie Kamara, Zainab Kamara, Ramatu Kassim, Mabinty King, Isatu Koroma, Janet Kowa, Fatmata Parkinson, Fatu Pessima, Mabinty Sankoh, Mary Sheriff, and Marie Turay.

These are the women that will be representing Sierra Leone at the 2021 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Africa Qualifier. A team that is described as a mixture of young talent and experience. 

When this interview was conducted, they were sat in a hotel in Botswana, under intense Covid regulations.  In what is a busy time for the team, members of the travelling party were happy to sit down for twenty minutes to conduct an interview. This included captain Linda Bell, Head Coach Sarah Johnson, Chairman of the Sierra Leone Cricket Association Francis Trevor Samura, and Team Manager Eustace Jones. 

This was the night before their opening match against Nigeria, and they candidly discussed many topics such as the perception of women in sports, women’s crickets’ journey in Sierra Leone, and the lack of funding from the Government.

To start the interview, it was important for us to focus on Sierra Leone’s women’s cricketing journey over the last eleven years. Mr. Samura said, “we have come so far, we have made giant strides, we have even been champions of Northwest Africa in 2015 and 2018.”  He listed other achievements including finishing as runners-up in another tournament in 2018. Mr. Samura spoke with great pride when looking back at their achievements.

However, it would be wrong to assume that they are content. If anything, they are hungry for more. Captain Linda Bull, who spoke with great passion throughout the interview, said, “we want people out there to know that there is a country in West Africa called Sierra Leone. We want to be in the spotlight too.”

For these goals to be achieved, these women will need support. Unfortunately, they have not received that from the Sierra Leonean government recently. As Mr. Samura said, “we have not received a cent from the Government before the departure, simply because the Government is financially constrained.” He did make it clear that Government promised to reimburse them for their costs when they return. He also expressed hope that the Government would fund the men’s tournament in October, but only time will tell.

The lack of Government funding has not however stopped these women from having immense pride in competing for their country. This was exemplified by the captain throughout the interview. When speaking to her, you understand why she has been selected as captain. She speaks in such a manner that is reminiscent of some of the best cricket captains we have seen. 

About being Captain, she said, “For me, it is a great opportunity, and I feel delighted to be here in Botswana and to lead my team in this competition.” She continued, “we are here not as individuals, but as a team representing Sierra Leone, and when it comes to national interests, I take it with great concern and great responsibility.”

As the interview went on, we got to know about the woman leading our country. Bull talked about her background and how she came to love the game. She explained, “I come from a sports family, my late father was a sportsman, and I grew up at Kingtom.” She continued by saying, “If you grew up in Kingtom you will definitely fall in love with cricket.” For those who don’t know, Kingtom a suburb of Freetown is the home of Sierra Leone Cricket.

She spoke candidly about the influence of her elder brother and father. She even mentioned that she was a gymnast and a runner before her brother motivated her to take up cricket full-time. She is quite the athlete. 

When it came to the advancement of the game, we were given an interesting insight into the plan by Head Coach Sarah Johnson. Johnson said, “back home we embark on taking the game to the schools so that we can get more women in cricket. We want to take the game to the provinces so the game will not be centred in Freetown.”

She then paused and raised an even more enticing point of view about the women’s game keeping up with the men’s game. She said, “if there is a men’s under ten team, we want girls under ten team, if there are junior girls, then you can have junior boys.” 

For those that question whether women should play cricket, Ms. Bull has a very clear message for you. “There is no law that says women cannot play sports, you can be a woman and be actively involved in sports.” She finished by saying, “You should not allow your gender to deter you from achieving what you want to.”

She then offered a message to those who say sports are for dropouts. She adamantly states that “sports can enhance your academics.” She continues, “Once you enhance your love for the sport, after exercising when you go back to study you will take in more.” 

From listening to all four of them that took part in the interview, there is quiet confidence amongst the group. Mr. Eustace Jones even said, “there’s a couple of things I’ve seen today that because of our grounds in Freetown it is not possible for them to be showing it.” He finished by saying, “if they continue like this, I see great prospects for us.” He even uttered the words, “we do believe we can go home with the trophy.”

As for the captain, her message is simple, “we know it will be challenging but they will put their best performances in the tournament.” She made it clear that they did not want to leave empty-handed. She concluded by saying, “By the grace of God in this tournament we will achieve what we want to achieve.”

Lastly, they send a message to the Sierra Leonean people. The chairman Mr. Samura thanks the people of Sierra Leone and the media for their support. He says, “we are looking forward to the players competing and fulfilling the expectations of our compatriots back home.”

The final words of the interview went to the leader of the team Sarah Johnson. She declares, “my girls are prepared and determined, we are in high spirits.” She ended the interview with a simple message for all of us, “I believe in my girls, I have confidence in them, and I hope the people back home have us in their prayers.”

The team kicks of its campaign against Nigeria on the 9th of September. After that, they will have games against Namibia and Uganda, before finishing the group stages against Cameroon on the 15th of September. 

To the team, we wish you nothing but the best. You have made us very proud already, now go and bring that trophy home.

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