Cricket flour­ishes with in­flux of asy­lum seek­ers

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Berlin

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.”

MAH­MOUD ZAYYAT / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Is­sam al-Rassi holds hands with a Syr­ian refugee Amena alHelou prior to an op­er­at­ing on her in Si­don, Le­banon, last month.

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