The cricket team, made up of players from various cultures, has just won, for the second consecutive year, the European bronze
The xenophobia that his performance of the anthem unleashed had the opposite effect, increasing the interest of athletes and institutions
The Spanish cricket team He revalidated the European bronze in October. She did it in Cártama (Málaga), which has become one of the capitals of this sport thanks to the work of the national association. It was a triumph that consolidates a project that was born in 2000 and a victory against the racism that this team suffered in the comments of a video of the interpretation of the anthem such as: “They are Spanish what I am Norwegian” or “They are not really Spanish.”
Spanish cricket transformed hatred into positive impact and It has established itself as an activity in several schools. In December, the women’s team, which also has multiculturalism as its flag, will play the European Championship for the first timewhich will also be played in the Malaga town.
‘Priceless publicity’ for cricket
“The racist comments had the opposite effect. The video had a wave of views: seven million that generated great support and media impact,” he tells THE NEWSPAPER OF SPAIN Jaime González, head of operations at Cricket Spain, the association responsible for the “second most popular sport in the world, with 50 million followers”. A modality that will also return to the Olympic program in Los Angeles 2028.
“The team is made up of Spanish players whose fathers and mothers are Spanish, others whose father is Spanish and mother is British or vice versa, other children of Pakistanis, Indians, South Africans… Coexistence is perfect, since everyone has the same passion and defends the same color, the red of their shirt.”, Juan Carlos Rodríguez Martínez, president of the Cricket Spain Group, explained to this newspaper.
Diverse and inclusive is the nature of another feat of a minority team selection. Also in October, the national baseball team He was proclaimed European champion 68 years later with, among others, several Cuban players. “The racist controversy got our sport talked about on all national television. It was priceless and very important publicity. It introduced us to many people who previously did not know what cricket was,” acknowledges Jaime González, head of operations at Cricket Spain.
Third in a tournament of 31 nations
The impact could have been greater if the team coached by Corey Rutgers had reached the final. “Our third place in the 2024 European Nations Championship has meant another success, because even though we have finished third again – as in 2022 -, We must consider that we did it in a tournament where 31 nations participate. We have faced very large powers with their own federations. It should be remembered that we are a group and, therefore, we do not receive financial aid,” claims the head of operations at Cricket Spain.
This condition that Jaime González focuses on is important to understand the state of health of this sport in national territory, where there are a very small number of fields. The regulatory size is about 140 to 150 meters in diameter, hence the difficulty in having adequate land. However, the enthusiasm and identity that cricket has means that it can be seen every weekend on all types of grounds in the cities where there are practitioners.
“Our players are ‘amateurs’ who play (and win) against professional teams. We have to be very satisfied, because we were very close to the final. We lost in the last match that gave us access to the final,” the association says. Despite a good match, the Netherlands overcame the Spanish team. England would end up taking the European T10 title, the abbreviated form of cricket. In it, each team has 60 throws to knock down the sticks and the game takes place in 90 minutes.
The first European of the women’s team
For the members of the third best national team on the continent, representing Spain is a reason for pride and sacrifice. Most have to juggle at work. It is the case of Hamza Saleem Dar, MVP of a European Championship to which he almost did not travel due to problems when it comes to balancing schedules in his job as a taxi driver. In addition to the trophy, the Spanish player received a watch from the renowned French brand Frederique Constant, partner and timekeeper of the competition and all events of the European Cricket Series.
The team’s travel is paid for by the Cricket Spain Group chaired by Juan Carlos Rodríguez Martínez. His company, Group One, is the only financial sponsor of the team. The players are organized in their areas to train in groups. It is not possible to hold concentrations. There is an important nucleus in Catalonia, but also in South Africa or England. Bringing them together for a ‘stage’ would require a significant expense in hotels, transportation or airplanes. “To improve our conditions we need more sponsors,” explains Jaime González, head of operations at Cricket Spain.
To attract new members, the association puts arguments such as tourism on the table. For the Malaga town of Cártama, hosting this event for the third consecutive year has been a boost recognized by the town council itself and all the institutions involved. In December it will host the women’s European Championship in the category in which the men’s team has achieved bronze. It will mark the debut in this tournament of the Spanish team made up of women.
How cricket has reached schools
One of them is Aliza Fatima Saleem Arra, second year law student at the University of Barcelona. Due to its international status, it has benefited from the Tutoresport-UB program, which helps students make their educational and sports careers compatible. Teaching centers have been one of the last great achievements of cricket in Spain.
“Our job is to convince those interested of the value that cricket has, not only at a sporting level, but also educationally, because of the values we share,” highlights Jaime González. The head of operations at Cricket Spain always highlights in the conversations he has with this newspaper the first rules of 1787, which enshrine “a clean sport where violence does not exist. The games take place in silence and it is very educational. “It’s ideal for bringing people together.”
Under these ideals, the ‘criiio’ program developed by the International Cricket Council is developed to introduce this modality at the school level. In September, La Manga (Murcia) hosted the second tournament organized within the framework of this plan, which involved in the last 18 months to 200 schoolchildren from various centers: Kings College of Alicante and Murcia, region of El Limonar School (Murcia); Newton College School (Elche) and Elians School (La Nucía). This activity will lead to the first national school cricket championship in 2024.
The activities take place mainly in English, the vehicular language of this sport, “a very interesting factor for boys and girls who decide to start playing cricket, because, in addition to the benefits of practicing sports, “They grow up in an environment where they can learn a language.”defended Juan Carlos Rodríguez Martínez, president of the Cricket Spain Group in an interview with this newspaper.
Cricket, Olympic sport in Los Angeles 2028
They aspire to be the ones who take the baton of two teams that have made history. “That cricket returns to the Olympic program in Los Angeles 2028 – it was only in Paris 1900 – is very important news. It will mean that our sport will be seen by millions of spectators,” analyzes Jaime González, head of operations at Cricket Spain. He does not believe the team currently has a chance of being in the American event.
“We are in 33rd position (before the European successes they were in 52nd place) worldwide out of 89 teams. We have other teams with more experience above us. We think they will invite the first six or eight. They will not exceed ten and will be superpowers. Spain will hardly be able to arrive, although there is a lot of time and we have to continue rising in the ranking as we have done in recent years,” González hopes.
What there is and will not be a doubt is the commitment of the cricket team to Spain, the country they represent, far above the racist and localized hatred incapable of understanding the value of its wealth. “It is a great pride”they sentence from “Our selection”, as they call themselves, because “we always speak in the plural, with ‘we’ or ‘our team’. But in the case of the national cricket team, we say it with all the rights of the law. We created that team from scratch” .