Refugees driving cricketing renaissance in football-obsessed Germany
Germany is already up to about 6000 participants playing hard ball cricket.
New Delhi: German football has seen a number of players with dual citizenship playing for the natioanal team and even guiding them to triumphs on global scale. The same is now being applied to cricket in the country and the recent resuls have been phenomenal.
Brian Mantle, the chief executive of the Deutscher Cricket Bund, is creating a great pool of talent in the country together with appropriate investments, in attempt to see Germany playing in the Twenty20 World Cup sooner than the world would have predicted.
“Germany is up to about 6000 participants playing hard ball cricket,” Mantle was quoted as saying by Independent Sport. “Then there are thousands and thousands playing softball cricket in parks and self-organised leagues.
Though football remains the primary sport for people born in Germany, a huge chunk of the cricket-playing sportspersons in the country are Asian immigrants.
“Around 95% of them are Asian immigrants and a lot of them are refugees but we’ve got more cricketers now than anywhere else on the continent – it’s huge. We’ve gone from 60 clubs five years ago to around 370 this year.”
The big difference is that we don’t have any infrastructure, we don’t have any cricket history, we’re playing on makeshift pitches and although the facilities are getting better it’s still a big struggle,” Mantle added.
“The locals are more intrigued than anything else. There has been a huge amount of interest from the press, last week even CNN ran a story on German cricket. It’s a nice story about immigration which is obviously a departure from what we’ve seen in recent years.”
The popularity for cricket might be touching unbelivable numbers, but it is the impact it has had on the immigrants is what hints at even greater things to come.
“There are hundreds of young Afghans in their late teens – many of them fast bowlers and quite a few spinners – who are going to qualify to play for Germany in the next couple of years,” Mantle said.
“There are almost 300,000 Afghans here now. In certain parts of that country, cricket was the only sport that was tolerated by the Taleban because you can’t not tolerate something that everybody loves. They come over here and have nothing to do, they have no money and they have all this time on their hands.
“A lot of them didn’t think you could get cricket bats here so they ended up getting loose pieces of wood and chiselled away at them until they had something resembling one.
“They then took them into the park and started playing with a taped-up ball. At the beginning, cricket was all a lot of these guys had.
Mantle also spoke about how important it is to integrate the immigrants with the country, and cricket is playing a vital role in it.
“It’s not much of an argument is it,” says Mantle. “Cricket is hugely important to them in terms of getting them settled - we have to get these guys happy. If they’re not happy then they have no chance of integrating.”
Considering the pace with which cricket seems to be growing in Germany, it won't be a surprise to see the country qualifying for an international tournament in the next 5-10 years.