The project 'Criquet BCN' has been running since 2010 to promote inter-cultural links and youth empowerments through the practice of this sport.
For some years now it is quite usual to see groups of people playing cricket in some spaces around Barcelona. This sport originated in England, but is played in many countries of South Asia.
In 2010, an Ethnographic and community interaction study carried out by the Centre d’Estudis Africans i Interculturals (CEAI) (Centre for African and Inter-Cultural Studies) in the Poble Sec neighbourhood of Barcelona identified an unmet need for spaces in the city to play cricket. In this context, the project 'Criquet Jove de Barcelona' was established to promote this sport as an educational, pedagogical and inter-cultural tool.
"'Criquet Jove' is a project working on social and community intervention with youths through the practice of cricket”, says Ana Villalobos, the coordinator of the project currently managed by the CEAI and the Fundació per a l'Esport i l'Educació de Barcelona (Barcelona Foundation for Sport and Education).
Sport as a tool for social cohesion
What originated as a demand for spaces to practice this sport has now become an essential tool to build communication and participation bridges with the communities of Pakistani, Indian and Bengali population living in the city.
In 2018, after a lot of promotional work, up to 9 male and female cricket teams were set up, with around one hundred participants from different neighbourhoods around Barcelona.
Although most of the youths taking part in this sport are or Pakistani and Indian origin, the project aims at stepping away from stereotypes: “Our goal is to ensure an equalitarian process in the practice of sports with a strong identity component and other sports; but we are also promoting cricket among all young population in Barcelona, trying to de-stigmatize this sport so it isn’t seen as a sport only played by the Pakistani community”, Villalobos explains.
Inclusive cricket to fight discrimination
The first Catalan Indoor Female Cricket League –and the first of its kind in Spain– started in Barcelona in 2018. Taking part were four teams made up of around fifty girls from different neighbourhoods in the city.
“We pay special attention to accompany these youths so that this sport becomes one other was of becoming empowered and to break down barriers. For them, the team is a safe and empowering space”, as the project coordinator says.
The diversity of participants in terms of origin, beliefs, cultural level and generationally make sport a space for social cohesion, inclusive participation and non-discrimination. As Ana Villalobos explains, “in this scenario we can see many situations that allow us to deal with conflicts as an opportunity for change. We try to make youths aware of their actions by stepping out of their ethnocentric perspective and moving closer to an inter-cultural dialogue in a distinct and educational space as school sports are”.