Kobus Olivier, a cricketing nomad started playing cricket at the age of 6 in Johannesburg, South Africa. After obtaining his post-graduate degree at the University of Cape Town he played professional cricket in the UK, Scotland, South Africa and in Holland.
He qualified as a Level 3 cricket coach in 1996 and coached teams in Cape Town, Amsterdam, Glasgow and Dubai. I was director of cricket at the University of Cape Town from 1996 until 2010. In 2000, I became national youth coach and development manager of The Netherlands during the South African off-season. This incredible game has taken him on a journey across three continents and more than 30 countries. He has lived in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, having to adjust and adapt to different cultures.
In 2014 he was appointed as CEO of Cricket Kenya. In 2015 he moved to Dubai. In Dubai, he set up two cricket academies. One was for the GEMS schools. GEMS has more than 70 schools in the UAE. They also have schools in Africa and Asia. Kobus was appointed director of cricket and set up the ESM cricket academy across five centres of excellence, schools with state-of-the-art facilities. The second academy was at King’s al Barsha school, the leading private school in Dubai. Kobus was the director of cricket and a member of the physical education department at King’s.
“You can take me away from cricket, but eventually, cricket always seems to find me” says Kobus. He started his new life without cricket two years ago in Kyiv, setting up his own import company and teaching English to corporate companies and in Gymnasium A+ a private school in Kyiv.
- Cricket in Ukrainian schools for Ukrainian kids:
The owners of the school, KAN Development, one of the leading development companies in Ukraine, approached Kobus to conduct a team-building exercise for their top management. He decided to take them completely out of their comfort zone by introducing cricket games and drills. It certainly levelled the playing field and the girls outplayed the men.
He ordered some mini cricket equipment (plastic bats and stumps and softballs) from the UK the week before.
The KAN Development team loved it. Seeing that he now had cricket equipment in Kyiv, he approached the director at Gymnasium A+ and suggested that he starts the first-ever cricket academy in Ukraine at the school. The school agreed and produced a fantastic video on YouTube and also another one here to promote the cricket program at the school.
- How are the people of Ukraine taking to Cricket?
He started some taster sessions during the winter at the school. Obviously, these sessions had to be indoors. The kids and parents have shown a real interest in this new game. They started looking at cricket on YouTube and asking questions about the rules of cricket. It is seen as a British sport here, and I use my English lessons at the school to let them play cricket. He doesn’t speak Ukrainian, so the classes are all conducted in English. They learn a new sport and new skills while improving their English at the same time.
- What are your long-term plans regarding cricket in Ukraine?
The goal is for Ukraine to become an associate member of the International Cricket Council, and thereby given International T20 status. Cricket will almost certainly be participating in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Kobus is working closely with Andy Hobbs, senior manager of development services international at the ICC in Dubai and Andrew Wright, ICC development manager ICC Europe, and have their full support.
The South African ambassador in Ukraine, Andre Groenewald, is a cricket lover and has been very supportive. He introduced me to the Indian ambassador in Ukraine who has set up a meeting for me with the Indian Club in Ukraine. The Indian Club organizes all cultural events in Ukraine for the large Indian community here.
Currently, there are more than 10,000 Indian medical students in Kyiv. I am aiming to involve the Asian community in Ukraine in the academy.
The Ukrainian Cricket Federation has been playing a lot of structured cricket for adults, including regular league competitions and hosting visiting teams, in Ukraine.
- What sort of cricketing facilities are there in Ukraine, and do you have any sponsors backing your project?
Gymnasium A+ have state of the art sports facilities.
They have an indoor sports hall which is perfect for indoor cricket as well as a smaller sports hall where one can do cricket drills, fitness and yoga.
There is also an outdoor sports field with floodlights.
Kyiv International School will also promote and support the grassroots development cricket program.
He is planning to introduce a night league for schools as well as a night league, T20 format, on Friday nights for corporate companies. By involving corporate companies in team building as well as leadership exercises, using cricket games and drills, he would like to create awareness for the game and attract sponsors.
At present, Kobus is the only certified cricket coach in Ukraine. (Level 3 cricket South Africa certified).
Shyam Bhatia, who is a close friend, is the owner of the biggest private cricket museum in the world, as well as Cricket for Care, is my main sponsor. Cricket for Care is a charity organization and Bhatia donates cricket equipment to countries all over the world. Bhatia lives in Dubai and during my stay in Dubai became a friend and mentor to me. We share a passion for cricket and he has already sent me six full sets of cricket equipment and playing shirts.
He has actively been conducting cricket sessions at three schools in Kyiv as an after-school activity as well as during physical education lessons for boys and girls between the ages of 6 years to 17 years old. During the school holidays, he has been conducting cricket master classes for British Camps, Study UA.
In the future, he wants to see Ukrainian cricket teams across all age groups and genders, consisting of at least 70% Ukrainians in all representative teams.