Former International Cricketer, Henry Olonga offered a “challenging message” to students as he spoke at an evening hosted by the Christian Union in the EHB on May 5.
The ex-Zimbabwe cricketer spoke for just over an hour on his cricketing and musical careers as well as a delivering strong message on his faith before entering a Q&A session.
Olonga, 35, began with a brief insight into his early life and how he got into cricket including details of his debut against Pakistan in 1995 aged just 18. Olonga was the countries first black play but described himself as a “wild and erratic bowler” in a confident, fun and informal start to the evening.
It was a strong message from Olonga, where his passion and dedication to Christianity became very evident. Olonga spoke about Christianity in his sporting context, citing “subtle persecution” during his playing days and how it helped it into him into a position where he could “risk it all” in 2003.
The evening was broken down with musical interludes, including Make It All Count from his album Aurelia. And after a short explanation about his musical background Olonga moved onto talk about his faith and how it had been such an “important decision” for him during his late teenage years.
Olonga, best known for his controversial protest against the death of democracy in Zimbabwe during the 2003 Cricket World Cup, unfortunately was unable to soak up more of the Loughborough atmosphere due to the short nature of his trip.
The 35-year-old told Label afterwards: “I’ve never been to Loughborough so it was my first trip. Its obviously hard for me to say what the trip was like because I came in just before at 7pm, spoke for two hours and am just about to leave now.
“I didn’t get the real chance to walk around but its an amazing place, I know this is where the cricket academy is where Mr Flower (Andy Flower, Head Coach of England Cricket, former teammate of Olonga who also took part in the protests of 2003) spent some time. Coming here and seeing the place where your colleague was at for a few months is quite a nice experience.
“The folk, as in students, looked to be really listening in, of course I don’t know if they are, but they were very welcoming, they applauded and seemed to enjoy it.
“If they did genuinely enjoy it then I am happy for them. I sent them a challenging message as I do whenever I speak and some will love it and some will hate it but that is what I do. I go around telling people about the Christian message that I believe in.
“Of course it is very humbling to come to a university with such sporting prowess because I am mindful that some of the people I am speaking to might be good enough to go to the 2012 Olympics or become amazing cricketers or athletes.
“It is always a thrill for me to speak to young people and hopefully in part some of my experience to them and I hope it will be useful for them.”
Christian Union President, Lewis Crown felt the evening that had been arranged over a year before it took place had gone well.
He said: “I really enjoyed it and I hope everyone else did.
“To be honest, before today I hadn’t even heard of Henry Olonga as I’m not a big cricket fan but it is a massive occasion for us to have someone that is recognised here.
Crown was also full of praise towards the Christian message that was offered by Olonga on the evening.
“It’s a really great picture of how someone’s faith can influence the way they live. It is always encouraging to hear people who believe things and who act on them.”