MUST-READ: The harrowing story of SA-born cricket coach in Ukraine

Russian troops are said to have been pushing closer to Kyiv following the frightening invasion of Ukraine this week. Civilians are now frantically trying to leave Ukraine with whatever they can carry, and among them are several South Africans fearing for their safety in Kyiv.

Kobus Olivier, a South African living in Kyiv, is a former club cricketer who has coached around the world, having worked with the Dutch national youth teams, while he was formerly the CEO of Cricket Kenya.

Speaking to KFM Mornings on Friday, Olivier said the current situation in Kyiv was frightening.

“It is quite scary. They have surrounded Kyiv. Some of my South African mates in our WhatsApp group say soldiers have gone past their apartments. They don’t know if it’s Ukrainians or Russians.

“I was walking my dog at 5am this morning and I just heard a huge explosion. It sounded like it was right next to me, and I gathered from what I heard later on that they took out strategic targets here with missiles. They have evacuated everyone [from the airport] there is no staff [left] or anything. But I heard that they shot missiles at three airports here.”

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Olivier described the desperate scenes of frightened people, including children running down the streets with suitcases trying to leave the city, but he added that there was massive congestion on the roads

“No one here wants to go back to the [Soviet Union] kind of life. Kyiv is a good city and the people here live a good life and they are incredibly proud to be Ukrainians. It’s only around the Crimea area where there is a lot of pro-Russians there. But in the rest of Ukraine, especially in Kyiv, they speak Russian but they don’t like Russia.”

Olivier has previously spoken to the Emerging Cricket website about his passion for cricket and his remarkable journey in the game.

“It all started in Cape Town in the townships during Apartheid. Working under the guidance of Bob Woolmer and John Passmore (the father of black cricket development in Langa township) installed a real passion for cricket development in me.

“To see players of colour such as Makhaya Ntini, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngdi, Paul Adams and Herschelle Gibbs to name a few, has inspired me to develop young cricketers across the world.”

Olivier’s subsequent cricketing adventures then took him to Dubai, where he worked with young cricketers and saw him set up two cricketing academies.

“In Dubai, I was the Director of Cricket at the Gen-Next Cricket Academy in partnership with Ravi Ashwin and his Gen-Next cricket academy in Chennai.”

After his stint in Dubai, Olivier took up an opportunity as an English teacher at a private school in Kyiv a couple of years ago. However, he has remained heavily involved in cricket coaching as he looks to develop the sport in Ukraine, which includes the launch of a grassroots cricket development programme.

“The most important box to tick is that it is a cricket programme for Ukrainian children. The goal is to introduce cricket to them and to develop their skills. The program is not aimed at providing opportunities to play hardball cricket for expats. The more exposure I can get for this programme, the more chance I have of getting approval from the Ukrainian Minister of Sport.”

Olivier has said he chose to remain in Kyiv despite the frightening scenes because he didn’t want to abandon his four dogs.

You can listen to the harrowing interview with the passionate cricket mentor below:

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