Cricket flourishes with influx of asylum seekers
Aboom of interest in cricket in Germany, fuelled by the influx of asylum seekers from Pakistan and Afghanistan, is a tale poised to hit the silver screen.
The season has just finished, but as Brian Mantle, chief executive of the German Cricket Federation, explained, 2016 has seen clubs shoot up all over the country.
“The summer has been unbelievable, we’ve had success on and off the field and we’ve attracted sponsors,” Mantle told AFP.
“It’s been quite incredible. We could even be soon watching a feature film ... about German cricket and its impact on Afghan refugees.”
Last year, Germany took in 890,000 asylum seekers, among them just over 40,000 Afghans and Pakistanis. Many of them soon asked: “Where can I play cricket?”
Before refugees began arriving in large numbers last year, there were only around 1,500 active cricketers playing in 70 teams in football-mad Germany. Mantle says there are now 5,000 cricketers, playing in around250teamsfor108clubs.
The national German team, many of whose members have roots in cricket-mad India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, has just won promotion from the International Cricket Council’s European Division Two.
“The goal for next year is to win promotion again in division one, which would put us in the world cricket league,” said Mantle. “We wouldn’t be at the elite level, but we would have arrived.”
The cricket craze has generated huge publicity, both at home and abroad, and then came a phone call from a London-based film company, Life & Soul Pictures, which is interested in bringing the story of German cricket to the cinema.
The project is in its early stages, but has the working title Rites of Passage.
The script is being penned by the Berlin-based writer O’neil Sharma, whoworkedon Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 blockbuster Inglorious Basterds and the 2008 TomCruise film Valkyrie.
“The story caught my imagination as I amthe son of immigrants— my parentscamefrom India and I was brought up in London,” Sharma told AFP.
“I was sick of reading negative stories about refugees, fears of terrorism, and this is a story about how sport can bring cultures together.”
Kabul-born Hamid Wardak wasnot evenawarethat cricket was played in Germany when he arrived in 2011. Now he is playing for the national team.
“It means a lot, because I am getting to play cricket in a land where I never even thought that cricket existed,” Wardak told AFP. “Being able to play cricket — good-quality cricket — here is wonderful. It’s an honour formeto represent this land on an international level.”
Issam al-Rassi holds hands with a Syrian refugee Amena alHelou prior to an operating on her in Sidon, Lebanon, last month.