Athletes hail transformative nature of Baseball5 after Youth World Cup qualifier in Africa

Athletes hail transformative nature of Baseball5 after Youth World Cup qualifier in Africa
Players participating in the WBSC Africa Youth Baseball5 World Cup qualifier in Ghana last month reflect on the opportunities that the five-aside urban sport has given them and their desire to continue growing the game.

The players competing in last month’s World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Africa Youth Baseball5 World Cup qualifier have hailed the transformative impact the sport has had on their lives.

Hosts Ghana’s victory over Tunisia in the final saw them become the first African champions with both teams qualifying for the inaugural WBSC Youth Baseball5 World Cup due to take place later this year. Zambia beat South Africa in the third-place play-off game to claim the bronze medal.

Baseball5 continues to prove popular in Africa. The need for only a rubber ball to play the five-on-five urban version of baseball and softball has allowed it to grow across the continent.

Benin captain Bignon Brayan Faton said: "You can play Baseball5 everywhere. You just need a rubber ball. Baseball5 gave me the opportunity to participate in an international event for the first time. This means that the unlikely doesn't mean impossible.”

That view was reiterated by Burkino Faso player Wilfred Bienvenue Toe, who added: "Baseball5 is much easier to play than classic baseball because you don't need as much gear.”

Baseball5 has also given opportunities to youngsters far beyond their wildest dreams, including playing international sport and dreaming of studying at university.

Nigeria's Olamide Emmanuel Olaojo explained: "I have never travelled. I started playing baseball at 11 and Baseball5 gave me the opportunity to represent my country. I got to meet players from other countries too, which will help me gain more knowledge."

Catherine Chitani from Zambia added: "Hopefully Baseball5 will help me attend university and also give me the opportunity to travel to other continents, like Asia.

"When I return to Zambia, I will do my best to introduce Baseball5 to more schools. Baseball5 was introduced in 2019 to Zambia, and we want to create more clubs."

Chitani’s desire to help more youngsters play Baseball5 and benefit from the opportunities that it provides was reflected in the comments from other players, who spoke about continuing to drive the growth of the game in their countries.

"It's a great honour having the (South Africa) name on my chest," said South Africa's Ethan Gobler. "In South Africa, we are trying to build a strong Baseball5 community. We are looking to expand it into school leagues, our leagues.

“Later this year, we are planning to hold our provincial championships. Development in South Africa looks really promising."

South Africa were one of three African countries to participate in the inaugural WBSC Baseball5 World Cup in 2022, finishing one place above Kenya in seventh and one below Tunisia, who have developed one of the more intensive Baseball5 programmes in the world.

Tunisia youth team captain Ilef Cheikh said: "I've been training for four years now and I have fallen in love with this sport like I could not have imagined.

“I want to thank all the players who trained with me and didn't make the team. We wouldn't have made it to the World Cup without them."

And it was Ghana captain Elizabeth Levor, who lifted the trophy after defeating Tunisia, who wanted to praise the inclusive nature of the sport ahead of their trip to the WBSC Youth Baseball5 World Cup.

Levor said: "This game means a lot to my country. In Ghana, we don't have any mixed-gender sports."

Tunisia and Ghana will represent Africa in the inaugural WBSC Youth Baseball5 World Cup.

Following the WBSC Youth Baseball5 World Cup later this year, the next edition in 2025 will be a qualifying tournament ahead of the Dakar 2026 Summer Youth Olympics.