Afghan refugees recently resettled in Bristol have been given a safe space to play cricket at Bristol Country Ground
Cricket mad Afghan refugees have been bowled over by their warm welcome at a county ground.
Recently resettled in Bristol, they have been given a safe space to play the game at Gloucestershire County Cricket Club’s headquarters in the city.
Around 20 Afghans, who are among 50 families to have recently fled from the war-torn country and been re-housed in Bristol, have been attending weekly community cricket sessions at The Shire’s home stadium since the end of October.
The sessions, run by Gloucestershire Cricket Board (GCB), not only gives the participants a chance to play the game they love, but also provides the Afghans with an opportunity to integrate into society and socialise among like-minded people at a time when the game has been rocked by allegations of racism.
Cricket has been played in Afghanistan since the mid 19th Century, and the war torn country’s national team performed with distinction in the recent World T20 tournament in the United Arab Emirates.
The refugees have made Bristol their home after being welcomed into the UK under the City Council’s Resettlement Programme.
Gloucestershire Cricket and the GCB are aiming to help them feel like a valued part of community life in the city.
Bristol-based charity, Bridges for Communities, who work with Bristol City Council on the refugee programme, partnered with the cricket club and the GCB to ensure the displaced Afghans are given the best chance to settle in their new surroundings.
Organisers say the opportunity to play cricket weekly at the County Ground gives the Afghans a fun activity to look forward to and enjoy, and also provides the families with structure and stability in what can be an uncertain and scary time for them.
Karen Green, of Bridges for Communities, said: “We’re extremely grateful to Gloucestershire Cricket for putting on free cricket sessions for Afghan refugees.
“For people who never expected to become refugees, who have had their lives turned upside down in the last couple of months and who still face significant uncertainties over their future, outlets like this can be invaluable because they allow people to take a break from the challenges they are facing so they can do something fun and enjoyable.
“We’re looking forward to continuing our partnership to help facilitate further opportunities for others who are rebuilding their lives in the city.”
Those who attend the weekly cricket sessions not only get chance to play at a top-class facility, but are also treated to a selection of delicious foods. Thanks to support from three of the Club’s local businesses, Gloucestershire has been able to offer the Afghan cricket-lovers with a buffet after each session.
Noda Marvani, CEO of Koocha Mezze which has donated food, said: “As an independent business, we are very much part of the local community and we are happy to be supporting both the cricket club and those in need.”
Raza Rehman, General Manager of Gloucester Road Fruiterers which has also donated, said: “Independent businesses on the road have a huge role in not only serving the community with daily essentials but also working together to help our community in all aspects of life.”
Jenny Rogers, co-owner of Joes Bakery which also donated, added: “It’s great to see local businesses come together and be able to offer help when needed.”