Butetown cricket team players pictured indoors during winter.

Cricket Wales offers more training for refugees and asylum seekers

Sport speaks its own language, says organiser opening the game up to all

CRICKET Wales has launched a second season of free indoor cricket training in Butetown for locals, and organisers say large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers are turning out to train.

Mojeid Ilyas is a cricket development officer for the cricket board, and a Grangetown native. As a cricketer of Pakistani heritage, Mojeid is keen to run games for people in his community.

“My work is to make sure that cricket is accessible to all the people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Mojeid.

One of the city’s most culturally diverse and deprived areas, Butetown hosts one of four street cricket centres in Cardiff, with others in Grangetown, Leckwith and Riverside. The cricket charity Chance to Shine funds each centre.

Cricket Wales feels it is important to keep working with asylum seekers and refugees.

“They take difficult journeys to come to this country, where they aren’t familiar with their surroundings. Cricket serves as a tool to unite us,” said Mr Ilyas.

Many of these players come from Afghanistan, where cricket is popular.

“It helps that I speak Pashto, the language spoken by most Afghan refugees. But what’s quite important about sport is that it speaks its own language. They don’t need a good command of English to play.”

Cricket Wales does not only welcome refugees and asylum seekers.

Mr Ilyas said: “We target people who live in deprived, inner-city areas. A lot of the people we serve do have access to the sport but we’re trying to find different ways to ensure that they access cricket regularly.”

Cricket Wales holds several different sessions to accommodate their players, many of whom work antisocial hours.

“We’ve opened cricket up to different backgrounds, including the eastern European community that people don’t always associate with the sport.”

The cost-of-living crisis has not impacted Cricket Wales’ street sessions.

 “We allow people to come to our street sessions free of charge, so we are lucky that cost isn’t a factor like it is for many.”

Mr Ilyas said they keep in contact with refugees and asylum-seekers who have been housed in another part of Wales.

“What’s quite powerful is that we have people from all centres coming together, people who have had similar journeys, and see them sharing their stories,” Mojeid explains.

Cricket Wales provides each player with equipment.

“We give them cricket kits to remind them of their time with us. This helps them assimilate into their new communities with ease,” Mr Ilyas said.

The street sessions, which take place indoors in winter, started in winter 2021. They are currently held in Butetown Pavilion Centre.

Cricket Wales plan to open sessions for women soon. “Often, women aren’t afforded sports facilities where they can play in a safe space,” said Mr Ilyas.

  • Sessions are run in Butetown Pavilion Centre between 3.30 and 5pm for adults aged over 21 and between 1.30 and 3.30pm for 13 to 21-year-olds every Sunday.