LONDON: Cricket is nowhere close to football on popularity charts in Barcelona but the people have voted for building a cricket ground in the Spanish city synonymous with Lionel Messi, leaving authorities stumped. A report in ‘The Guardian’ newspaper said Barcelona gave its citizens the chance to vote on a 30 million euro package of new facilities ranging from cycling lanes to playgrounds and out of 822 projects, the cricket ground got the most votes. “This was all thanks to a campaign led by a group of young women,” said the report.
The report quoted 20-year-old Hifsa Butt as saying that the game was introduced to them in 2018 when their gym teacher informed them about starting a cricket club out of school hours.
“The women, all from Pakistani and Indian families, had little idea of the rules of cricket when the club was announced – and nor did their Spanish gym teacher. Their first trainer was a Latin American rugby player and she had never played cricket either,” the report said. However, Butt’s father taught them a lot about the game. “Then we got started on our own account,” Butt said. The report further said that until recently they played at weekends on the baseball ground on Montjuic but since the baseball season has begun they have nowhere to play.
“All the people behind this project are girls. Training gives us a safe space to feel empowered as women and where we can freely develop our skills. At the same time, our aim is to establish a Catalan women’s cricket eleven,” they wrote in their proposal.
“We want to play proper cricket, with 11 players, with a hard ball and not a tennis ball like we use indoors. So now we need a proper cricket pitch with real, not synthetic, grass,” said Butt.
However, Damien McMullen, the Australian president of Barcelona International Cricket Club, said ,”Finding somewhere that’s flat and covers 16,000 square metres in Barcelona is impossible.” The plan now is to convert the Julia de Capmany dirt field on Montjuic, a shallow hill with a flat top, into an Astro Turf cricket pitch, and it was this Euro 1.2m proposal “that hit the council for six when it won the most votes”.
McMullen said there were 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.Butt said that they consider themselves as ambassadors of the game.
“We’re from Pakistan and India, countries that know about cricket, but we also want to spread the news about the game in Spain,” Butt said. —PTI