12:16 GMT +324 September 2019
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    Afghan refugees take part in a Cricket training session at the team of the Altendorf 09 Blue Tigers in Essen, western Germany, on April 30, 2016.

    I Don't Like Cricket... I Love It: Refugee Influx Sparks Boom in Germany

    © AFP 2019 / Sascha Schürmann
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    The refugee crisis has had an unexpected impact on football-mad Germany, with the influx of asylum seekers from the Middle East leading to a boom in the popularity of cricket, as many take to the sport to help with their integration into society.

    With close to 40,000 refugees from the cricket-mad nations of Afghanistan and Pakistan arriving in Germany last year, many have contacted the German Cricket Federation (DCB), looking for teams in their respective local areas.

    As a result, the DCB boss Brian Mantle has been swamped with enquiries about new clubs being set-up across the country.

    To put the cricket craze into perspective, there were about 1,500 registered cricketers playing in 70 teams when Mantle became the German cricket CEO in 2012.

    However, just four years on, there are now 4,000 registered cricketers, playing in 200 teams across Germany.

    "We've been getting up to five enquiries per day from groups wanting to set up new clubs," Mantle told AFP.

    "Often it's from social workers, who had never even heard of cricket before groups of refugees from Afghanistan and Pakistan started asking where they could play it.

    "They had been offered volleyball or football, but most just want to play cricket."

    Too Many Players, Not Enough Resources

    While the refugee influx has helped boost the prevalence of cricket in Germany — where football is by far the most popular sport — it has also led to a few logistical problems for new clubs, who have been relying on donations for bats, balls and cricket clothing.

    To help with the increase, the cricket's world governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), has offered the DCB an extra US$17,000 in funding.

    While there are a few temporary shortages in relation to cricket equipment, Mantle says the new interest in the cricket is only a bonus for the sport in Germany, as well as many of the refugees taking up the game.

    "The biggest problem is getting refugees to speak German, but this is a good way to integrate them through the sport they know," he said.

    "At the moment, our national Under-19 team is half made up of Afghans, who have qualified here through residency and that number will grow.

    "It can only raise the playing standards here and in years to come, we could follow the likes of Ireland and Afghanistan, who are knocking on the door of Test-level cricket.

    "I'm excited about the future, but with a severe lack of resources, we're totally overwhelmed."


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    cricket, migrant crisis, sports, refugees, Afghanistan, Germany, Pakistan
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