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Refugees pitch up to play cricket

28 February 20140 comments

Newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees are taking up cricket as way of connecting with communities and finding meaningful ways to occupy themselves.

Dozens have already joined local clubs and more have taken part in clinics or open days.

One refugee, Pakistan-born Fawad Ahmed, has played for Victoria in the Sheffield Shield competition and for the Melbourne Renegades in the recent Big Bash series.

In August 2013, he played for Australia in both a T20 and an ODI series against England.

AMES, with the help of Cricket Victoria and local clubs, has been running cricket clinics for new arrivals, particularly in Melbourne’s west, north and south east.

AMES Case Manager James Coutts said many refugees were Tamils from Sri Lanka, or from Pakistan or Afghanistan. “A lot of the clients love it and some have already had exposure to the game in their own countries,” Mr Coutts said.

He said AMES had found cricket was a good way to help refugees make connections in the community, as it was a sport they often already had a passion for. Mr Coutts said some had been given tickets to Big Bash Twenty20 games through the partnership with Cricket Victoria.

As well as playing cricket, Mr Coutts said they had been offered voluntary work at some local cricket clubs.

“In exchange for helping out, they get equipment, training and become part of the club. The clubs have been really welcoming and are doing a great job,” Mr Coutts said.

Cricket Victoria runs a Harmony in Cricket program which brings together people from all walks of life and from all over the world.

“The Harmony in Cricket philosophy embodies the message that cricket is a game for everyone,” said Aaron Wharton of Cricket Victoria’s Community Programs Team. “Regardless of a person’s cultural background, age, religion, gender or ability, cricket has a place for them”.

“It was great to have over 80 refugees involved across out latest two clinics,” Mr Wharton said.

Sunshine Heights Cricket Club is one of the clubs that has hosted clinics recently. Club committee member Giulio Venditti said attracting new arrivals to his club had been a positive thing.

“We’re a multicultural club and we welcome every race and creed. We have members from about 40 different ethnic backgrounds,” Mr Venditti said.

“Cricket is a global game and it’s a game that breaks down barriers because we spend so much time with each other,” he said.

“Having people overseas come and join us has been good for the club and its broadened all out minds,” Mr Venditti said.