Turning 20-years-old for most people is insignificant because 21 is around the corner, but for former Trinidad and Tobago cricket captain Daren Ganga his 20th changed his life after receiving a phone from South African President Nelson Mandela.
As a 19-year-old, Ganga made his debut in December of 1998 for the regional side against South Africa. While on a West Indies tour of South Africa in 1999 he received the life-changing phone call from President Mandela.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that phone call changed my life,” Ganga said.
At a press conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, yesterday, Ganga presented a cap to the Nelson Mandela foundation that was part of the official West Indies uniform during that tour to South Africa. He went on to share the brief phone conversation with President Mandela.
“President Mandela congratulated me as the youngest member of the West Indies team on tour and went on to say how very happy he was to see our team, and welcomed us to his country,” he said.
Ganga gained the most inspiration from President Mandela after what was said next.
“He reiterated that this tour was especially important for the people of South Africa as they have followed the exploits of our team and drew great inspiration and hope from it,” Ganga said. “He offered words of encouragement to me in terms of my career, and said that I was a role model to young people everywhere.”
Every since January 14, 1999, Ganga has kept those words close to his heart.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that phone call changed my life,” as the former cricket captain finished the story.
Even though he is no longer the captain of the Trinidad and Tobago cricket team, he made every effort to motivate and encourage his teammates teach others the lessons they had learned through their career.
Ganga has gone on to do so by starting Daren Ganga Foundation. The purpose of the foundation is to mentor young people and motivate and inspire them to realize their full potential, and to support their development through financial assistance, coaching and scholarship programs.
He shared two lessons he learned from his conversation with Mandela.
“The first is, where you are now doesn’t determine where you will be in the future. If President Mandela had given up while imprisoned, believing he would never be freed, where would this country be today?” he asked.
“With this in mind, I determined very early on that my humble beginnings would never restrict my progress and prevent me from achieving my dreams,” he said.”Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have learned to appreciate the value of each human being, to honor each person’s dignity, and to recognize that we are all equal, and equally fallible,” he said.
Ganga went on to add, “It is our duty to treat each other with respect, kindness and love; this, President Mandela has demonstrated during his lifetime, even in circumstances where most human beings would lash out in anger and hate; he maintained this noble disposition, and never answered racism with racism.”