When twenty-one-year-old cricketer Sulaiman (Dik) Abed came to Europe from South Africa in 1967, he was determined never to visit the Netherlands. As a Cape-Malay, he associated the country with the Apartheid regime, instituted by the Afrikaner descendants of 17th century Dutch settlers, which prohibited him from participating at the highest level in the sport he loved and excelled in.
Recognizing his talent, the South African Cricket Board selected him as one of only two non-white players to join the national team in a tour of Australia. The regime decided not to grant permission to the two to join the national team. A symbolic gesture, since both players had already decided that they were not interested in legitimizing the regime by their presence in the national cricket team.
Life can play funny tricks on people. On a ferry boat between Italy and Greece, Abed met a lovely young woman called Janny, from Groningen. They fell in love, and Dik Abed came to live in the land he had sworn never to visit. He became a missionary for the game and shepherded The Hague team HBS to three national titles. Abed brought a professionalism to cricket that was unknown in the Netherlands. When he got the Dutch nationality in 1981, he became eligible for the national team, which he captained to some modest international successes.
Experts are unanimous in their evaluation of Abed as one of the lost stars of the game. Had it not been for the Apartheid regime, he could have been a revered test player. But although he never swung the bat for his native country, he did represent his adopted country on the international stage – the country which he initially associated with the evil in his own homeland, but which eventually became the place where he found freedom for himself and his children.
For more in-depth coverage of Dik Abed, read Issue 41 of DUTCH the magazine.
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