From Zimbabwe to MIDDIES

... this Ryan does not need saving

phiri1 Medium

Everyone has a story. And Ryan Phiri’s story is one of dedication, guts, perseverance and hope.

It all started in 2013 when he was in action for the Zimbabwean Schools team during the Nashua Sevens Festival at Hoërskool Middelburg. At the time he was on a rugby scholarship at Prince Edward School in Harare, but the moment he ran out onto the field, he knew he wanted to play for Middies.

In the spring of 2014 he was invited for trials and - in his own words - it was a miracle that he successfully made it to the school. After a taxi ride of more than 20 hours to a family friend in Gauteng, all his possessions were stolen in Johannesburg. “It was really tough to get here. People in Zimbabwe warned me to be careful in South Africa and I did not know what to expect. I was really scared,” says the 17 year-old during an interview at the school on Wednesday morning.

However, perseverance is an admirable quality and Phiri has it in abundance. Not only was he accepted into the Middie ranks, he played rugby for the first team, was selected for the Puma Academy A squad and was elected as a prefect for 2016. All in the space of nine months!

“Mr Johan Stronkhorst (principal) was very kind and the school gave us food and a place to sleep at Excelda Boys Hostel. Even though we were still at the trials.”

According to Phiri he started as a wing in Zimbabwe, but has since then moved to inside centre.

Doubt also plagued his confidence in his rugby ability on the road to South Africa. “I was worried about my potential, but I am now a better player than I was in Zimbabwe.”

He gained a lot of experience during the year, and is excited about playing in the 2016 Classic Clash against HTS Middelburg. “I was on the bench this year for Cyprian (Nkomo). But next time I will certainly grab my opportunities with both hands.” School life also differs from Zimbabwe - especially regarding academic and cultural activities.

“Here in South Africa the teachers go through the work step by step and all the educational material is provided. The extra classes mean that it is in your hands whether you pass or not.”

He says that it is a great honour to be elected as a prefect at MHS.

“I did not expect it at all, but it made me realise that in life anything is possible. Being a prefect is the foundation of who you are going to be in the future.”

“The inter-relationship between black and white pupils at MHS is fantastic. I have never felt like this, you feel welcome.” He also enjoys life in Middelburg. “In Zimbabwe people warned me not to even speak to strangers in South Africa. But in fact it is the exact opposite - I can’t compare Middelburg to any town in Zimbabwe. It is a smart place and I appreciate it a lot.” Does he have plans for the future? “It is my long-term goal to play rugby overseas but then I want to come back and farm. I have Farm Management as a subject and it is where I have learned to speak Afrikaans.

” Shortly afterwards a teacher asks him a question in Afrikaans and his response is immediate. “Ek kan al verstaan!” he explains with a broad smile.

One thing is certain: Ryan Phiri’s life story already includes some interesting chapters...

• Deputy-principal and coach of the first rugby team, Gert van der Westhuizen, on Phiri: “Ryan has leadership qualities and is a positive influence on his co-pupils. He has a sincere appreciation for the opportunities he is given, while on the rugby field he has more than enough speed, power and vision.”

I am a street kid