Hansie Cronje (1969 – 2002) was elected as the South African Protea cricket captain at the age of 24, and held that position from 1994 to 2000. In his day, Hansie was considered as the best cricket captain in the world, especially in one-day matches. He was known as a gentleman.
On 7 April 2000, Delhi police charged Hansie with fixing South Africa’s one-day-international against India and released transcripts of an alleged conversation between Cronje and a bookie. The conversation centred around who would be playing and who not, who is in on the deal and how much would be paid to Hansie and his team-mates Pieter Strydom, Nicky Boje and Herschelle Gibbs. Hansie denied any involvement in the matter and all of South Africa rallied behind him.
On 11 April 2000, Hansie called a meeting with Dr. Ali Bacher, the MD of the SA cricket board and confessed to being dishonest in India. He said that he received $10,000 to $15,000 for providing information and forecasts but that he had never fixed a match in India. He was sacked. In a controversial investigation, other international cricket players were found guilty of match-fixing but they all denied it. In October he was banned from cricket for life by the United Cricket Board of South Africa.
Hansie died in George on 1 June 2002 when the light aircraft he was in crashed into the Outeniekwa mountains in George. He was 32 years old. He will be remembered by some as the only cricket player in the world to confess to taking money from match-fixing, and as a gentleman. By others he will be remembered as that “Christian that sinned”.
Joost van der Westhuizen
Joost van der Westhuizen was born in 1971 and retired as the most capped Springbok rugby player of all times. At that time, he held the record for the most test tries scored by a South African rugby player. He was regarded as one of the greatest half-backs of all time.
In February 2009 two newspapers broke a story claiming that they had a video of Joost engaging in sexual play with an unidentified woman and snorting a white substance. Joost initially vehemently denied that he was the man on the video but in November confessed that it was him. In that time another woman came forward claiming that she had an affair with Joost while he was married.
On 12 May 2011 it was made public that Joost suffers from a form of motor neurone disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) and only has another two to five years to live. The disease is incurable.
The stories of Hansie Cronje and Joost van der Westhuizen are similarly fascinating. Both confessed their Christian faith throughout their sporting careers and achieved the highest accolades possible in their fields. Yet, both succumbed to ‘sin’, were greatly humiliated and either died unexpectedly like Hansie, or became gravely ill with very little time to live, like Joost.
In a world where religious tolerance is oh-so part of being politically correct, it somehow does not extend itself to Christianity. Anyone professing to be a Christian is frowned upon, slighted and considered somewhat of an idiot. And so it was with glee that the fall of these two men were received. They were sneered at, humiliated, slandered, mocked and castigated. Oh God, there but by your grace go I. How they must have suffered.
But this is what happens when we put mere mortals on pedestals, we pave the way for their fall. We line them up for stumbling. No man should be treated as a god. We make them, and when they displease us, or we find that their feet are made of clay just like ours, we break them.
What they did was wrong, but no more so than the wrongs I commit each day. I however do not find myself on the world’s stage where everyone can boo or throw stones at me. I have to ask for forgiveness from few. An idol from many. And forgiveness is not something freely parted with because we love to judge, we love to hold grudges and we love to hate. When someone like Hansie is publicly humiliated, it makes us look and feel more righteous. And so we can be armchair judges, criticizing how others chose to live their lives and severely punishing those who, as decided by ourselves, were not allowed to transgress in the first place.
How are the mighty fallen
How much lower though,the throwers of stones
“The past truly no longer matters to me. I am no longer the arrogant rugby player who needs the accolades from the crowd or the man with the incessant need to impress society. I am me and I am a father, and that is more than enough right now.”