Category: Featured

In Loving Memory: Tribute to Christopher Charles Stone (24/02/59 – 24/11/23)

On 24th November 2023, Royal Brussels Cricket Club lost a great friend and stalwart club member in Chris Stone and we pay tribute to a life much lived.

Chris was born on 24th February 1959, in Hobart, the capital city of the southern Australian island state of Tasmania. He was weighing in at 4.5kg.

He went to Sandy Bay Infant School and then to Waimea Heights Secondary School. One of his early traits became evident here. At playtime, the girls would be separated from the boys and after school, the teachers would tell them that if Chris ever heard his sister cry, he would race over to care for her.

Life for Chris was, as the fullness of time would reveal, typically about limited sleep, a love of outdoor activities and getting up to mischief. As a child with his brother Jeremy, he often broke the rules irrespective of the consequences.

One time, while playing human hurdles inside the house, against their parent’s strict instructions, he tripped and crashed straight through a glass door, sustaining a significant arm gash and requiring his first trip to the hospital, followed quickly by another, when he pushed a handful of rice bubbles into his nose.

In 1969, his father was promoted and the family moved from Hobart to Melbourne. He attended secondary school at Caulfield Grammar, where he was a good student, but his focus was and he excelled in sports. He was Captain of Cricket & played First 18 Aussie Rules Football. Outside of school, he played Premier cricket for St Kilda, South Melbourne and Victoria Boys. He was a fast bowler and also a good batsman. His love of cricket was strengthened by the family’s close friendship with the great Sir Don Bradman’s family, a friendship that started when his mother found herself stuck in a hotel elevator in Melbourne with the great man, who was just 15 years old.

Faced with the choice of a chance at professional sport, he chose Australian Rules Football, believing he did not have the stature to be a top-flight fast bowler. At the junior level, he played for a local team called St Kilda City and then, at the age of 18, was selected to play in the premier competition for St Kilda – a team he had supported since moving to Melbourne. It was a dream come true. He was among the few to have kicked a goal with his first kick in the professional game against Collingwood. In a later game, he came off with a dislocated retina after being hit by a ball, an injury that kept him out for the next 9 months. Ironically, he did it again a few seasons later, this time fielding at point in a cricket match. Despite the initial hiccups, he was soon back in the side at St Kilda, now playing with squash goggles, and enjoyed a professional career for 7 years. His success was due to his skill, long hours of training, commitment and desire to succeed.

After secondary school (while continuing to play Aussie rules), he studied agricultural science at Latrobe University. This was also the disco period, and Chris, a part-time model, would hit the nightclubs with his mates dressed in white pants and matching white jackets, looking like John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever, not Pulp Fiction).

After graduation, he secured a job in sales at Pearl & Dean – a cinema advertising company. He had found his calling and was promoted with a move to Sydney in 1986, at the age of 27. He quickly integrated into local life, sport, work and entertainment. His circle of business interests and friends widened and when the opportunity of an assignment in London arose, he jumped. There, he made some lasting friendships playing premier league cricket for Esher Cricket Club. He also played a couple of matches for the MCC but, not planning to stay in London, did not complete the prerequisite for playing membership – a decision he later regretted. However, by now, his sights were set on Belgium, which would become his home for the rest of his life.

In 1994, he arrived at the Royal Brussels Cricket Club and was invited to play under the then 1st team captain & wicketkeeper, Colin Wolfe. Colin later recalled asking him if he had played much cricket. He said he’d played a bit. When he came on to bowl his first over, Colin asked whether he should stand up or back – “Maybe stand back for the first couple and see how it goes,” came the reply – he soon gained fame as one of the fastest bowlers in Belgium.

Chris brought all his great talent and colour to his cricket here in Belgium. He was competitive, but he could laugh at himself, as well as at his teammates. Bedecked in his wide-rim hat, full of Aussie wit and banter, he soon made deep friendships and became a big figure in the club and the last to leave the bar after a game. He reserved most of his sledging for his teammates but could be combative on the field. Once, when denied a clear LBW decision in a game against Antwerp Indians, he confronted the batsman, “Why don’t you walk?” and narrowly avoided sanction from the umpire. Later, he conceded that he would never walk since you get enough good decisions in life to offset the bad ones. On another occasion he was fed up in a match at Luxembourg having not bowled and not called on to bat until only 6 runs were required, he announced he would do it in one ball and duly dispatched it for six.

Always the showman, his speeches at club dinners were legendary, bringing both rib-cracking laughter and sometimes censure from the victim’s spouse. When asked to present the prize for the best batsman, he opened with the unforgettable line “I have been instructed that tonight I must on no account take the piss out of this fine gentleman, well ladies and gentlemen I beseech you, how could I possibly take the piss when nature has done such a magnificent job”.

He was not only a fine player, but he made the rest of the team feel good about themselves and play better. He was part of the dream team that won several Belgian national league titles in the late 90s – early noughties – and he became a hugely popular and respected figure in Belgian cricket, even if from time to time, he liked to discuss matters with the umpires.

It was during this time that he met Sophie Wilmes, who would become the love of his life.  Whilst some were initially surprised by the match, she was from a great Belgian family and he (in his own words) “a bit of rough from down under”, it was love at first sight and his life was changed forever. They were married in 2002 and made a home together with his son Jonathan and soon after their 3 daughters –Victoria, Charlotte, and Elizabeth. He was deeply attached to his family and inseparable from Sophie, who later became the first female prime minister of Belgium in 2019. Despite his busy life as CEO and husband of a premier politician, he was a devoted father who prioritised his family, never missed any of their hockey games and always encouraged them with their music.

By 2007, he had reached the end of his cricket-playing days. He devoted his life to his family while growing a successful business after acquiring an Advertising company, Dewez, in 2001. Instead, he took up hockey, as a goalkeeper and captain at Wellington Hockey Club. He loved mountain biking and joined a motorbike club of close mates who toured Europe and the deserts of North Africa. He was also a fair-weather golfer at Sept Fontaines and once hooked his drive into a swimming pool and then explained to the irate Englishman that it was, in fact, his fault for placing the pool there. Of all the adventures, he would recall his white-water rafting down the Zambezi River as the most extraordinary moment of his life.

Throughout his life, he remained passionate about his Australian heritage. He was President of ABIE (Australian Business in Europe) for several years which he used to strengthen cultural links between Belgium and his homeland. He was also passionate about art and held a substantial collection of fine Aboriginal Art.

Although Chris stopped playing cricket, he continued to give much to the club and the sport. He and Sophie would travel the world to attend former clubmates’ weddings. He provided ideas for the 200-year anniversary (of the battle of Waterloo, 150th of the club) celebrations in 2015, which included a tri-lateral tournament with the club, the Guards, and the MCC. He put on a tour to Belgium with 2 distinguished MCC members explaining the “history of The Ashes” in schools. He also helped bring more young people into the game, many from disadvantaged backgrounds and supported the club’s initiatives with young migrants, recognising the importance that sport can play in integrating into Belgian communities. His support was instrumental in cricket becoming recognised as an official sport in the French-speaking regions of Belgium in July 2023.

In the Summer of 2022, he was suddenly diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer. Always a fighter, he fought it bravely and embarked on a bucket list of life wishes with Sophie, who stepped down as Foreign Minister to be with him, and their 4 children. He died peacefully on the evening of 24th November 2023. Our thoughts all lie with his family.

RBCC pays tribute to a great Australian sportsman, a distinguished businessman and a loyal and loving father and husband. Christopher, the world is a poorer place without you, but we are richer for having known you. May you rest in peace.

RBCC Women Display Exceptional Performance at BCF Women’s Soft Box Cricket Tournament in Mechelen

Mechelen, Belgium – On Sunday, November 19th, the RBCC Women showcased their cricket prowess at the annual BCF Women’s Soft Box Cricket Fest held at the Nekker Sportshall in Mechelen. The event, a dynamic 6-a-side tournament, is dedicated to fostering the growth of women’s cricket in Belgium, attracting six teams, including some newcomers to the game.

Despite a scheduling clash with the World Cup Final, approximately 60 women participated throughout the day, underlining the enthusiasm and commitment to advancing women’s cricket in the region. The RBCC team, albeit one player short due to an unexpected business trip, displayed remarkable cricketing skills, navigating their way to the semi-finals. Their journey ended in a closely contested match where they were narrowly defeated on the last ball.

The much-anticipated final witnessed a thrilling encounter between The Titans and Kortrijk Warriors (KWCC). The intensity of the competition reached its peak, culminating in a nail-biting finish as KWCC secured victory with a winning run on the very last ball. The entire event was a testament to the talent and dedication of the participating teams.

The prestigious awards ceremony saw Mr. Gohar Sakeel of Coco Group and Mr. Mazhar Iqbal, representing the event’s sponsors, and presenting prizes to the deserving winners. In a generous gesture, Mr. Iqbal promised a celebratory dinner in one of their renowned restaurants for all the finalists, further adding to the camaraderie and spirit of sportsmanship that permeated the tournament.

The BCF Women’s Soft Box Cricket Fest not only provided a platform for intense competition but also served as a catalyst for the promotion and expansion of women’s cricket in Belgium. The presence of newcomers in the tournament highlighted the growing interest and participation in the sport, promising a bright future for women’s cricket in the region.

As the event concluded, the RBCC Women left Mechelen with heads held high, having played an instrumental role in making the tournament a resounding success. Their exceptional performance and sportsmanship have undoubtedly contributed to the flourishing landscape of women’s cricket in Belgium.

1st XI finish with a flourish

1st XI finish with a flourish

A good crowd gathered at RBCC for the final match of the season. This was a crucial game against ICCB, had results not gone our way then we could have been facing relegation.

There was a fair amount of tension in the air as the match started; this was only exacerbated when our captain, Muneeb, fell to the first ball of the second over and Sudhanshu went with the score on 15. Mishi and Jawad steadied the ship, putting on 150 for the third wicket before Jawad was given out LBW on 48. Mishi went on to score 126 off only 124 deliveries, a fantastic effort made all the more special because he was using Sairab’s bat, the one given to him by our late coach Farrukh. The big man must have sent us his blessing!

The other innings of note was a brisk 31 scored by young Afzal. Agonisingly he was the last man out with only 2 deliveries remaining; this meant that we had missed the opportunity to score valuable batting bonus points and meant that our score, 274 off 49.4 overs, might not be enough to keep us up. The pressure was now on our bowling attack…

Our lads went hard at the opposition and wickets fell regularly. Muneeb rotated his bowlers and was rewarded as 7 different players took wickets, the skipper leading the way by taking 2 for 13 off his 6 overs.

ICCB realised that they were unlikely to match Royal’s score but knew that a batting bonus point would keep them above us in the table; however, if we could bowl them out within 40 overs then the situation would be reversed. In a tense finish, Afzal took a catch off Sudhanshu that saw us dismiss ICCB for 162 with only 3 balls of the 40th over to come. This was a fantastic victory and the joy on the players’ faces was great to see. This was a hard-fought victory and needs to be the template for all our teams next season. As Muneeb said afterwards ‘A perfect example of our team spirit is that last inning when we all fielded together. We played as one team and for each other. That is how I want us to play going forward!

A special mention for Afzal who, following the disappointment of getting out in the last over, took 3 smart catches and pulled off a stunning piece of fielding that will live long in the memory. He caught a certain 6 in mid-air and before his feet touched the floor threw the ball back in to play so that Mishi could take the catch. Well played!

Congratulations also to Dom, making his first team debut, big thanks to Channi as 12th man and also to Chris & Max for scoring.

And the crowd went wild…

It has been an eventful season; we have won trophies, suffered relegation and organised a successful tour. Through it all the players and supporters have stuck together in true RBCC fashion. See you all at the Club Dinner in a couple of weeks!

Match Scorecard

FWBC T10 Champions 🏆 | Royals Romp to T10 Tournament Triumph!

Royals Romp to T10 Tournament Triumph!

Over the weekend of the 22nd/23rd of September RBCC hosted the FWBC (Federation of Wallonia and Brussels Cricket) T10 Cup, determined to go one better than in the last edition where we lost in the final.

We didn’t get off to an auspicious start, losing a wicket to the first ball of the competition. Our opponents, ICCB, bowled well but Waqas and Mustafa responded with some excellent batting as we set a target of 88 for losing 7 wickets.

RBCC – Ready to go

As ICCB looked to respond Sairab set the tone by taking 2 wickets in his first over. Mishi also bowled well with figures of 2 for 10 off 2 overs. Our fielding was excellent, with Siftay running an opponent out with a direct hit. In a tense finish, ICCB needed 10 off Sairab’s last over but fell short as RBCC won by 1 run.

In our second match, the result was never in doubt as we raced to a commanding 130 for 1, with Muneeb and Mishi scoring 52 and 45 respectively. In comparison, Brussels Strikers could manage only 85 with Taha taking 2 for 8. Our final league game was cancelled because we had already qualified for the semi-final against PCCB.

RBCC family

The semi-final was highly competitive. PCCB made a respectable 89/3 with one of their batters really going after Mishi’s last over. In reply, Muneeb went for their bowling from the start but a tense finish was in prospect until a couple of huge blows from Mustafa and Ollie saw us home with 2 balls to spare.

On to the final, a rematch as we squared up to Liege. Restricted light meant that each team was limited to only seven overs but incredibly Muneeb still managed to make 51 before being run out off the last ball, while Mishi made 31 off 15 deliveries. Liege CC were always behind the run rate with Waqas and Ollie taking crucial wickets as the visitors made 63.

RBCC family

At the presentation ceremony, Nick thanked all the teams that had participated, the spectators for their support, and the two umpires without whom the tournament could not have occurred. In addition to steering RBCC to the trophy, Captain Muneeb won two richly deserved individual awards; best batter and most valuable player.

Muneeb: Our captain!

A great weekend of cricket and a fantastic performance by RBCC. Well done!

Silverware at last! Royal Brussels CC wins Bob Parker T20 Cup 🏆

RBCC successfully defends 173 to claim BP Cup 2023

Congratulations to Captain Hameel and the team following their victory in the Bob Parker Cup. It has been a couple of barren years for RBCC in terms of winning trophies at the senior level so it was good to see the boys clinch victory in a tense and exciting finish.

Winner of BP Cup 2023

We batted well to set a target of 173 with man of the match Ollie scoring 56 and Waqas and Faisal also making good contributions.

ICCB seemed pretty confident that they could knock that score off but they reckoned without our tactical masterstroke, Taha coming in as wicketkeeper! The watching supporters gave him a great ovation but he was so overcome with emotion that sadly he missed the photos with the trophy…

ICCB needed only 12 off the last 3 overs but superb bowling from RBCC meant that 9 runs were still needed in the final over. Faisal bowled the last ball with our opponents needing 3 to win, they scrambled 2 and RBCC got the victory by 1 run.

It was a great match to watch and a terrific performance by our lads. Well played!

Obituary: Farrukh ‘Rookie’ Malik

It is with great shock, sorrow and sadness that we have to announce the death of one of our stalwart member and friend Mr. Farrukh Malik who passed away on 31/12/2021.

Rookie, as we fondly remember was a popular figure in Belgian cricket. He represented and captained the Belgian National Team & Royal Brussels CC. Subsequently, he was the Head Coach at RBCC.

The club is devastated to learn of his passing. His presence will be missed by everyone in Belgian Cricket, especially at the Royal Brussels Cricket Club, to which he devoted over 40 years of his life. Our thoughts are and will remain with his family.

RBCC Honorary President, Ted Vorzanger, paid the following tribute to the great man:

“In the early ’80s, a young Pakistani by the name of Farrukh Malik arrived in Belgium and went to work helping, and working, with his brother  who ran a curry restaurant called “Upstairs Downstairs” in Rue Archimede near the European Commission

He was probably about 18, but Farrukh himself didn’t know exactly his date of birth as hospital records in Pakistan were a bit hazy at the time.

He soon found the RBCC and at first, it was thought he was only a fast bowler, and he was certainly a bit quick!

Gradually though people realised he could bat as well as bowl, and it was not long before the club realised a special player had arrived as he started to move up the order and became a prolific run-scorer.  He blossomed at the end of the ’80s and became the only person in the club’s history to twice score a thousand runs in a season, as well as doing the double of 500 runs and 50 wickets.  Farrukh made more runs and hundreds than anyone else in the club and made them on the old concrete wicket, on Astroturf and on the grass in England. He adored cricket and spent a fortune on new bats, clothes, pads, gloves etc., and was always the smartest and well-dressed player on the field. He played in every game he could and joined the club tours to the UK. It was not only glory though as he had his share of adversity.

Sadly in the same year, his brother tragically died in a gas boiler leak at home and a parcel bomb sent by a jealous romantic rival exploded when opening it and it left him with only a couple of fingers and a thumb on his left hand. Just after an operation on his hand with pins and rods in it, it looked like the Eiffel Tower but with a towel wrapped around it he insisted on playing and bowling. Such was his passion for cricket.

Many people would have given cricket up after such a handicap. However, incredibly, he adjusted his game and still carried on making runs and taking catches which even players with two good hands would have found difficult. Later, he worked at Winners, a fitness club, near Place Madou, where he was a fine squash player and coach and dealt with the catering before finally starting his own catering business. 

He became not only club captain, but also captain of the Belgian team in the early days of the Belgian Cricket Federation (BCF), and without help from the BCF, he spent his own money and time in getting the team together and arranging travel to get them to wherever they were playing. For nearly 30 years now, Farrukh was an integral part of the club, Mr. Reliable when it came to batting, he was always there to help, cooking and feeding visiting teams, (His Tikka Masala curries at the ground were legendary), helping with the ground and the wicket, going on tours and away weekends. He helped players with their technique and as his cricket career came to a close he devoted himself to coaching the juniors He won the cup for outstanding performance more than 5 times, and in the end, it was presented to him permanently as a gift.

By the end of the ’90s, he had also won the club’s ‘best batsman’ award so many times that the club gave him the trophy to keep. Later he was awarded life membership in recognition of his great service to the club. These 2 trophies sat in pride of place in his house, a tribute to the great love he had for RBCC.

There are many stories to tell of Farrukh, how his ability towered over everyone else, and how much he gave to the club, a huge debt we can never repay. He played in the true spirit of cricket and was an example of fairness and respect for the spirit of the game. There are three things he loved, his wife, his family and cricket. His presence will be sorely missed and we will not see his like again.” 

A true legend, an honourable gentleman and an inspirational figurehead for so many generations of RBCC’ers. His presence will be sorely missed by those who knew him, whose lives he touched and the generations of young cricketers he coached and nurtured. Rest In Peace Rookie; may all your batting strips be as gentle as you were and your bowling strips absolute ripper.