Mass migration to Germany is viewed negatively by a substantial number of typical Germans, but one media outlet has apparently found a surprising benefit to the flood of refugees: a resurgence of interest in cricket.
Der Spiegel’s Andrea Scharpen wrote a long-form piece Sunday exploring the explosion of interest in cricket, noting that male Afghan migrants are mostly responsible for the sport’s uptick. These Afghan migrants could boost Germany’s world cricket ranking of 37th place.
About half of all Afghan migrants who have arrived in Germany can play cricket, leading to a 20 percent increase in the number of members joining cricket associations, according to Brian Mantle, the CEO of the German Cricket Federation. Due to the influx of Afghan refugees, Germany is the only country in the European Union where cricket is on the rise. Mantle estimated in 2014 that 95 percent of cricket players in Germany were from other countries.
Cricket coach Campbell Jefferys said cricket helps to keep Afghans in touch with their home culture.
“Everything here is a shock to them, every day,” Jefferys said, according to Der Spiegel. “Cricket is a connection to the life they had.”
One of the men featured in the story, Nasrat, doesn’t understand why more Germans don’t care for the sport, given that the conditions are so hospitable. In the winter, there are indoor facilities available, and in the warmer months, players take to grass fields.
The German Cricket Federation has shipped out boxes of cricket gear to asylum centers around the country, which gives the refugees something to keep them busy. If refugees live in Germany for two years, they’ll be allowed to compete on behalf of the country, Der Spiegel notes.
Cricket was the only sport not prohibited by the Taliban, and so in Afghanistan, it has become about as prominent as soccer is in Germany. The game is popular in England and other countries part of the Commonwealth, having skyrocketed in Afghanistan after several Afghan refugees in Pakistan picked up the sport in the 1990s. The players who formed the Afghanistan Cricket Federation in 1995 in Pakistan made their way back to Afghanistan in 2001.
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