Just a few weeks shy of his 57th birthday, community sports icon André Alexander has launched his autobiography, entitled The Turning Point.
Born in Crawford on 16 April 1964, Alexander decided that after reflecting on his son’s 30th birthday in 2019, it was a good time to finally put pen to paper and write his story.
“The idea of the book came from a remark made by a visiting Nigerian pastor Femi Emmanuel, when he visited South Africa in January 2008 with the Director of Ambassadors Football, Nigeria, Peter Ottache. He attended the Ambassadors in Sport International Annual Leaders Conference, held in Cape Town,” he says, adding that his friend and fellow football coach Preston Jongbloed also inspired him after browsing through his scrapbook a few years ago.
“It’s a journey about me growing up on the Cape Flats and I could have chosen the gangster, substance abuse road, but chose sport instead and it was my saving grace, besides God coming and doing a complete ‘turning’ around in my life,” Alexander exclaims. In the book, he documents his wide-ranging sports career in which he played table tennis while also being an accomplished track and field athlete, as well as football and baseball.
Alexander’s older sister Sharon was a national record-holder in the sprints and long jump, and also made a name for herself in netball, softball and hockey. She had a major influence on him.
Alexander describes how his sister would take him to Athlone Stadium in the mid-1970s – not just to watch athletics, but also to participate in the u-11 sprints races (75 m and 150 m), which he enjoyed very much. “My sister Sharon was my role model. She taught me that I needed to work hard if I wanted to achieve my schoolboy dreams,” Alexander says.
“She saw something in me that I did not believe I had. “She would put me through my paces after school,” he remembers fondly.
Alexander would go on to represent the Spartans Amateur Athletics Club in which he developed an intense rivalry with Caval Marthinussen during his high school years in the 1980s.
Alexander credits the late Ismail Kolia as the sprint coach to have affected his character as a top-class sprinter.
“Kolia was the sprint coach who had the greatest influence on my career,” says Alexander.
However, while his athletic exploits were being marvelled at, Alexander would change codes and pursue his baseball career, owing it to his love for team sports over individual disciplines.
As a result, Alexander represented Cape District in baseball and went on to gain national colours with the South African Baseball Association, making the position of shortstop his own, garnering national colours for the sport in 1988, something he would repeat in football that same year.
Baseball and football were the two codes of sports that absorbed Alexander and, as a result, he was lost to athletics for good.
“My football heroes are great friends today. Duncan Crowie and I first played against each other at Cape Football Association. Him for Hotspurs and I for Blackheath. We later went on to represent Cape FA on a tour to Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) and became more acquainted,” says Alexander, adding that they would again be reunited at Glendene FC and Santos FC.
“We were roommates on all our travels from interprovincial school football days to our times spent in the semi-pro Football Premier League.”
Something many don’t know about Duncan is that he was a provincial middle distance champ in the 800 m and 1 500 m,” says Alexander.
Alexander would shift his sporting attention once again in the 90s, this time to softball.
“I joined Western Province Softball Federation in 1996 when Nicole was three years old and baseball was taking up too much of my family time.”
He joined Devonshire Rovers softball club, which he served as a player and coach, a role he would also reprise for the WP B-team at the time. Following Greg Niewstadt’s retirement, Alexander then became the coach of the WP A-team.
“My dream and hard work were rewarded when I was honoured as the head coach of Softball South Africa in 2004, touring to Christchurch in New Zealand with Gary Jacobs, Tariq Moosa, Francisco Alfino, Chris Campbell, Monty Sadler (who withdrew on the eve due to an injury).”
He would go on to coach various Super League teams, including Glenthorn A’s, Falcons and Kenfac Phillies, which he coached until 2018.
Following his move to Oudtshoorn, Alexander is currently the manager of the Eden District Academy of Sport for the provincial department of sport, and also works with youth football/baseball and softball players in winter and summer after hours.
“I am passionate about young people and seeing them thrive and allowing their character to be shaped by sport with a good dosage of academics, which gives a great flavour of preparation for life. My life’s motto: ‘preparedness meets opportunities’.”