Curtain falls on the era of Goolam Rajah in South African sport

2011-11-23 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The end of the recent Test series between the Proteas and Australia marked the end of an era in South African sport.

Goolam Rajah served as the Proteas’ team manager for the last time in their defeat to Australia, bringing the curtain down after 20 years in the position, the longest of any cricket team manager worldwide.

Rajah was never far from controversy.

He was appointed in the murky dawn of South Africa’s re-admission into the sporting world and constantly under scrutiny.

Often Rajah was accused of being too closely aligned to the previous regime and he even admits that he has been affected by these allegations in the past, despite his ever-calm demeanour.

“Once or twice, some people have really gotten to me. Thank Allah I kept a cool head,” Rajah said.

Rajah then pointed to the past, mentioning the role he tried to play in the fight for democracy.

“I demonstrated outside the Wanderers against the Mike Gatting tour and was locked up in a police van and hit on the head with a baton.

“So yes, I do have some unpleasant memories, but I think all that is in the past.”

“I took my lead from the ANC: to move forward given our past, but never forget. Nelson Mandela said that different sporting bodies must unite, so that’s what I did,” said Rajah.

Rajah has been the mainstay through the ever changing nature of sports teams and provides some sage advice for his successor.

“You must understand the character, so you can make the adjustments. You must analyse their personalities, know their likes and dislikes. That way you can handle any situation.”

Rajah also praised the late former Proteas coach Bob Woolmer as the best coach he worked with over the two decades he has been involved with the national team.

“Technically, he was far ahead of his time.”

However, Rajah defended his employers, and despite being ranked number one in both ODI’s and Tests at some time during his tenure, he has never tasted the ultimate victory a World Cup brings.

“I don’t agree with labelling the Proteas chokers. Look at our record for one-day games played. We won 70% of them, the majority.

The 65-year-old Rajah admitted that he has made many sacrifices to walk the road he has, but says his new-found time away from the cauldron of international cricket will ironically be put to some more character and spiritual building.

“For now, I want to catch up on what I missed out on. Become closer to Allah, my wife, granddaughters, and family and friends in general.”

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