“Sports has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way little else does. It speaks to youths in a language they understand. Sports can create hope where once was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”
— Nelson Mandela
There were hugs — lots of them. Countless handshakes, too. Not to mention loud outbursts of laughter while reminiscing about the glory days.
West Indies Cricket Legends Weekend, which took place over three days at three venues in Broward County this past weekend, was part reunion, part tribute — and by all accounts, a total success.
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Brian Lara was in town, looking fit and scoring 108 runs to help the Legends team easily defeat a U.S.-based Cavaliers XI squad in front of about 3,000 spectators at Central Broward Regional Park. Looking on from the “legends booth” at the stadium were cricket icons such as Sir Garfield Sobers, Lance Gibbs, Sir Andy Roberts and Sir Wes Hall.
Twenty-five West Indies cricket legends converged on South Florida to attend the event that was organized by the Lawrence Rowe Foundation and Class-A Events. Rowe, a native of Jamaica and former West Indies cricket star, has been a South Florida resident for more than 30 years.
Proceeds from the event will benefit Rowe’s Foundation, which helps mentor and tutor at-risk children ages 7 to 14.
“It was a very good weekend,” Rowe said. “We had a few glitches and I was a little disappointed by the crowd [at Sunday’s match], but the overwhelming reaction from the legends was positive.”
The event began Friday night with a “meet and greet” at the Sheraton Suites Hotel in Plantation. On Saturday night there was a banquet at the South Florida Conference Center in Margate, followed by Sunday’s exhibition match.
Sobers, widely considered the greatest cricket player ever, was a fan favorite during the weekend, posing for hundreds of photos and signing bats and other memorabilia.
“This weekend has been wonderful,” said Sobers, 78, who lives in his native Barbados. “It’s one of the best I’ve been to in a long time. Lawrence worked hard to put it on.”
Former West Indies wicket keeper Deryck Murray concurred.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for us as individuals to interact,” he said. “It’s an important occasion for the people of Florida. Hopefully it will inspire others to do the same.”
Erstwhile fast bowler Hall, a virtual renaissance man who has been a cricketer, politician, businessman, West Indies Cricket Board president, and now an ordained minister, said what he liked best about the event was Rowe’s effort to give back to the community.
“I’m seeing great evidence of him helping the youth,” Hall said. “You can give back not only to the place you come from, but also give back to your adopted country. It’s a tremendous privilege to be with the guys again. This is what we as older West Indies players should do — support ventures like these.”
Rowe said the event was so well-received that one group is already trying to organize a Cricket Legends weekend in North Carolina later this year.
“We’re also getting calls from New York,” Rowe said. “We hope to make it an annual event [in South Florida]. Next time we may even have a different format, like three teams.”
Rowe said he hopes to bring even more West Indies legends for the next South Florida event, such as Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd and Courtney Walsh — who were unable to attend this past weekend because of scheduling conflicts.
“We’re really garnering a lot of support,” he said.