Western Province loose forward Nizaam Carr made history last week when he became the first Muslim player to receive a call up to the Springboks squad. His selection has been seen as a breakthrough moment for young Muslim players striving to reach the highest echelons of the professional game.In this regard, Carr has also left a notable legacy.
In 2013, with the assistance of close friends, the rugby star launched the Nizaam Carr Rugby Academy at the Lansdowne based Islamia College. With the goal of unearthing and developing some of the brightest rugby talents in the community, the academy also sought to cement itself as a community empowerment tool, by affording players the opportunity to further their studies at the prestigious Islamic school.
Within a year of its launch, the academy has yielded its first major results. In October, they hosted and subsequently won an inaugural rugby tournament at the home of the Santos Football Club. The tournament brought together some of the top community-based grassroots clubs in the city, and attended by the newly capped Springbok himself.
Speaking on VOC’s Sports Hub show, several of the academy’s star players spoke about their experiences playing for the team over the past year.
Saeed Hartley, who plays as a lock for the team, hailed the multi-faceted approach of the academy. He was pleased at the fact that he was able to progress academically in terms of his Islamic Studies education, whilst also developing his rugby game.
He praised Carr, who sometimes assists with the coaching of the squad, for the influence he has had on his game.
“Nizaam has made me more aware of the game, and made me feel closer to the game. I really appreciate what he has done for me,” he said.
Teammate and squad prop, Yusuf Abrahams, said it was inspiration to have an individual like Carr coaching them, particularly because of his experience as a professional. But he also boiled the team’s success to the unity amongst the players.
“We have all help each other moved and progress to where we are now, which is champions,” he said.
Another player, winger Ilyaas Kamalie, said the most important thing the group had learned during their time at the academy was discipline. He also hailed the positive influence of both Carr, and academy head, Yaseer Gabrials.
“They taught us about discipline and respect, and they taught us that even if we win or lose, at the end of the game we are all just friends playing for the love of the game,” he said.
Nizaam Carr could be in line for his first appearance in a Springbok jersey on the 8th November, when South Africa takes on Ireland as part of the sides Outgoing Tour 2014. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)