Rare feat for sporty PMB siblings

2010-06-10 00:00

FOR Maritzburgers Brett and Celia Evans, the road to sporting success started in the KZN capital in early childhood and came to a head last week when they joined one of the most exclusive clubs in South Africa.

Brett (28) is a 10-times capped Bafana Bafana footballer while Celia (20) played the first of what is likely to be many hockey Test matches for SA late last week in Beijing against 2008 Olympic Games silver medallists China.

Brothers and sisters representing South Africa in the same sport is rare enough, yet what makes the Evans siblings’ milestone particularly special is that it is probably just the second occasion, post-isolation, that a brother and sister have represented SA in two different sports.

After a fair deal of research, the writer established that it appears to have happened in only one other family: the Sternes, Richard (golf) and Farrah (squash). Of course, before SA’s isolation there may have been a few, like the Madsens, Trevor (cricket) and Jo (hockey), but pre-isolation they would not have been recognised as such by the international community.

And it would probably have not occurred for the Evans siblings had it not been for what some arch-feminists might regard as sexism.

Celia was a whiz with the ball at Scottsville Primary, stripping off her T-shirt and playing with the boys. Bafana Bafana (Brett) and its equivalent Banyana Banyana (Celia) was becoming increasingly likely — and if you see Celia with a soccer ball you might agree (she plays club soccer in rare hockey off-time and made an SA Varsities squad in a blink). “Soccer want me to stop hockey, but I like hockey too much now,” she says.

However, on Scottsville’s soccer pitch it was delicately put to Celia that a sports bra plus T-shirt would assist the boys in focusing on the ball.

“The boys started realising I was a girl, so I got embarrassed and they started playing gently with me and it annoyed me,” she says.

And not being allowed to play with the boys, particularly in official matches, was Banyana’s loss and Amastokkestokke’s gain.

Theirs is a close-knit family with father Lyle and mother Hillary enthusiastic supporters of their children’s individual pursuits in every way. Brett and Celia’s siblings, Gabrielle (24) and Wesley (18), are reading for degrees at UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus.

Brett and Celia went the local school, club and provincial routes, representing SA in every age group before, having been recognised for their sporting prowess in their teens, branching out to Potchefstroom and North West University (Celia), and Cape Town and Ajax (Brett).

The two sporty ones are always supportive of each other, yet competitive in the best possible way.

Celia relates the story of how, on occasion, their paths meet at the family home in Pietermaritzburg and one or the other lays down a challenge — a flat race to see who’s the fastest.

“Brett gives me a head start, but always beats me in the end,” says Celia, who talks with boundless, breathless energy and frankness. Brett, more seasoned in the wily ways of the pesky press, yet helpful and friendly, says with a wry smile: “I always say to her the day she beats me it’s time to retire.”

One of KZN and SA’s foremost soccer scribes rates Brett highly: “He’s a solid defender, one of the best left backs in the country. He has got a great left boot, is very good at playing from deep, a good crosser and free-kick taker. Brett has been with Ajax forever, which demonstrates his commitment and loyalty.”

Former pre-isolation national hockey captain and then coach Brian Edwards, probably the best talent-spotter in the country, describes Celia thus: “She’s a very astute player with unbelievable energy who has that rare ability to do the unexpected. She can improve on her tackling skills, but has a lot of all-round ability. Celia’s not a flashy player but does her job, and that’s invaluable to a team.”

Both Brett and Celia agree that measuring oneself against the world’s best remains the ultimate challenge.

Ajax Cape Town captain Brett was gutted when injury prevented consideration for the World Cup. “I came back too soon in trying to be ready for the MTN Cup final.”

Aside from playing in the World Cup, “the next-biggest test” for Brett, recently married to Cape Town magazine stylist Megan, is playing in Europe. For now, winning the 2008 Absa Cup with Ajax and representing Bafana at the 2008 African Confederation Cup in Ghana are Brett’s most cherished memories.

And winning the Premier Soccer League with Ajax is high on the to-do list.

For Celia, after her proudest moment in putting on the Proteas blazer before jetting off with the SA team to China a fortnight ago, this year’s Women’s Hockey World Cup in Argentina and the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India are big dreams — but the biggest is most surely the 2012 London Olympics.

It would take a brave punter to bet against these dreams coming true for two of Maritzburg’s finest.

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