There is seldom any doubt that the Spanish city Barcelona is well-known for Football. Ever wondered cricket was gaining popularity there? Recently, the public authorities in the city were taken by surprise when the people voted to allocate a fund of €1.2m for creating a cricket ground out of a total of €30m package reserved for developing new facilities ranging from cycle lanes to playgrounds. Among the 822 projects floated, cricket ground garnered the maximum votes, courtesy of a campaign led by a group of young women.
“It all began three years ago in secondary school when the gym teacher said: ‘Right, we’re going to start a cricket club out of school hours. Who’s up for it?’” said Hifsa Butt, 20, the eldest of the group.
The Indian and Pakistani girls in Barcelona had no idea about the rules of cricket whatsoever back then nor did their Spanish gym teacher. Their first trainer was a Latin American rugby player, who had never played cricket before. However, Butt’s father had been an accomplished cricketer. “He taught us a lot about how to play and then we got started on our own account,” she said.
The girls have been using indoor facilities and sometimes baseball grounds for practice. However, with the baseball season kicking in, there is no place for this enthusiastic bunch of athletes to play the sport. Butt added, “We want to play proper cricket, with 11 players, with a hardball and not a tennis ball like we use indoors. So now we need a proper cricket pitch with real, not synthetic, grass.”
Getting a place that is suitable for a cricket ground in a football fanatic city is a Herculean task.
“Finding somewhere that’s flat and covers 16,000 square meters in Barcelona is impossible,” said Damien McMullen, the Australian president of Barcelona International Cricket Club. As per the reports, it is possible that the authorities may convert the Julià de Capmany dirt field on Montjuïc, a shallow hill with a flat top, into an Astroturf cricket pitch.
Many girls are taking up cricket which is evident from the fact that there are at least 20 teams competing in the Catalan Cricket Federation, with around 700 players between them. There are also teams in Madrid, Alicante, Valencia, and Minorca.
Cricket is not just a game in Barcelona but a means to empower women in the city, feel the girls. In an endeavor to spread the cricket culture in Spain, Butt stated, “We’re from Pakistan and India, countries that know about cricket, but we also want to spread the news about the game in Spain.”
With the likes of Germany and Austria playing international cricket alongside of course England and Scotland, the rising popularity of the game in Spain will certainly enhance cricketing culture in a football-dominated Europe.