For over 50 years, Wally Knott was part of some young person’s sporting life, says Murray Williams.
A little article appeared in a community newspaper this week. In typical small-town parlance, it gently told the story of a pillar of the community, a widely loved sports coach, who had died.
Sport is often denigrated as meaningless, its back pages in a newspaper far less important than the “real news” pages up front. But especially in primary school, sport is the real syllabus, where true character is forged.
Where courage, commitment and camaraderie, purpose, patience and perseverance are learnt, practised and celebrated. And the coaches are the great masters who imbue these values.
The editor of the Cape Argus, Jermaine Craig, recently explained his inspiration to become a journalist. Was it a politician, a political activist or someone else of power? No, he was a simple sports scribe.
“The Argus has been the paper that I always wanted to work for. Lennie Kleintjies was my hero,” he explained.
“I was a kid growing up in Athlone, he was a sports writer then, for the Cape Argus, and I would see him on the side of the field, covering local amateur football, local PSL football. He was the guy I looked up to – a beautiful, humble man.
“I can remember coming into the newsroom, and meeting him. The sports editor of the day, Archie Henderson, gave me my first opportunity of writing for the Argus then, as a laaitie, just 17 or 18.”
Another such man died this week. The headline read:
“LOCAL SPORTING LEGEND PASSES ON”
“For over 50 years, Wally Knott was part of some young person’s sporting life in the Hottentots-Holland basin.
“Thousands of children passed through his hands for soccer, cricket and even tennis coaching. His beloved De Beers Football Club, of which he was a Life Member and President until his death at 94 years of age this week, saw him doing duty first as a player, then as a junior coach, a selector and in various other committee roles.
“Few who passed through his hands will forget him. On a recent visit from the States, Adrian Bernberg, an ex-soccer ‘pupil’ now in his late 50s, made a special effort to see Wally. For many he was synonymous with learning to play football in their youth, at a time when schools made no provision for it, and it was up to the dedication of people like him to make it happen.
“These days, when people have given a few years of service, they feel they have done their bit. For Wally it was a lifetime commitment, and he never lost interest in the fortunes of his football club. He was also widely known in football circles across the Cape Peninsula.
“At Somerset House Prep he did duty for many years as a sports coach, taking a keen interest in his charges and their fortunes. He was also a loyal supporter of the Somerset West Cricket Club, and could regularly be seen ensconced in a chair watching the game and chatting to the team members.
“A community man, but also a dedicated family and church man, Wally Knott was something of a legend in the area. De Beers AFC and the Hottentots-Holland basin are fortunate to have had him around for such a long time. He leaves behind his wife Kate, children Estelle, Adrian, Graham and Cathy, 10 grandchildren and three great-grand children.”
RIP, Wally Knott. Every community has people like him, whose lives have been blessings for those around them.
His obituary was only a “small story”. But to many, his impact on their lives was important as any front page news.
* Murray Williams’s column Shooting from the Lip appears in the Cape Argus every Friday. Follow him on Twitter: @mwdeadline