Germany, the land of the football world champions, is not the natural home of the world’s second most popular sport, cricket. But this is now changing thanks to the arrival of thousands of refugees. New players from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are joining cricket teams every day, using the game to learn German and help them integrate.
For Brian Mantle, CEO of the German Cricket Federation, the refugees are a welcome addition to the sport.
“For us it’s a breath of fresh air. We are always looking for people who want to play cricket,” he says. “Their religion, origins or language is not important. It’s not a problem for us. It’s a big mix of young people from different countries and cultures.”
The sudden interest in cricket has seen the creation of more than 250 new teams in Germany in the last four years alone. Khial Muhammad Sahak, a 19-year-old refugee from Afghanistan, plays for one of them.
Back home, cricket is the national sport. And Khial’s natural talent for the sport has won him a place in the German under-19 national team.
“Cricket has helped me to get to know to other people here in Germany and to work with them on how it is possible to live and work in Germany,” Khial explains. “Cricket is a sport where you need to have respect. Without respect, there is no cricket.”
Eighty percent of the players in the team are refugees. But Brian Mantle, is pleased to see growing enthusiasm among local athletes and is confident about the future of German cricket.
“Cricket is the second leading sport in the world, but the people here in Germany don’t know that and we want this to change,” he says. “My dream is that one day Germany qualifies for the world championship. This is still a long way off but it is possible.”
Jessika Zyfuss, Euronews, Berlin, says the sport is bringing people together: “It is impressive to see people from different nationalities playing cricket together who off the field are involved in religious and political conflicts. But when they take part in sport, these differences disappear .”