An eye on the ball

The slow and steady sport of boccia requires accuracy and strategy, as top South African player Brett Dakin explains. MARISKA MORRIS learns more

Silence falls over the hall at Coetzenburg Stadium in Stellenbosch. Brett Dakin eyes the cluster of balls on the floor, raises his arm, angles it and throw his red ball towards the cluster. A small crowd gives a short and quiet cheer. While boccia might not seem like the most exciting sport to the untrained eye, Dakin knows how quickly the game can change.

“It is very enticing and difficult, and can be unpredictable. Everything can change in a minute. I have to perform at 100 percent, be accurate and make no mistakes,” explained this top South African boccia player at the 2019 SASAPD National Championships, which was sponsored by Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM).

Although boccia has been around for decades, it was only introduced in South Africa in the early 2000s. Dakin started playing in 2007 and soon found his rhythm. By 2011 he was securing medals in both the single and team competitions. While he enjoys the team aspect of the sport, the singles game appeals to him more.

“Singles are great, as I control all six balls. In a team event, I only have two balls,” Dakin explained. The object of boccia is to get as many balls as close to the Jack (the white ball) as possible. Players may attempt to knock the opponent’s ball out of the way. Strategising and controlling the path of the ball goes require skill.

As boccia is still quite new in the country, there is no Paralympian team, with every few players attending international events. “We are a little behind, but we are getting there slowly,” Dakin said. “The SASAPD Nation Championships, for example, is getting close to the international level.”

In 2018, however, Dakin was the first South African player to compete at the Dubai Boccia World Open. Along with a host of news skills, the event also gave him the opportunity to be ranked internationally. He played the world number 10 and 11 players.

“I did well at the event. I’m happy with my performance. I couldn’t have done any better. It was a tough tournament,” Dakin recalled. After the event, he was ranked 97 out of 186.

He aims to improve his ranking further by attending the Boccia International Sports Federation (BISFED) 2019 Boccia America Regional Championships, to be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from September 29 to October 6.

Ultimately, Dakin’s goal is to get a South African team to the Paralympic Games.

With this kind of dedication from players and TSAM’s three-year partnership with the SASAPD, aimed at promoting the sporting codes offered at Paralympic level for athletes with disabilities, boccia will likely continue to grow in popularity in South Africa.

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