Norway: the sad condition of cricket

Most people have no idea what cricket is. That is, unless you come from a Commonwealth country, like Pakistan. And if you come from a Commonwealth country and happen to live in Norway, you ask yourself why nobody cares about cricket.

I doubt this would have made the news if there wouldn't be a war in Lebanon between Israel and Hizballah right now.

At least 500 police will protect Norwegian Muslims and Israeli Jews during their international cricket match in Scotland.

Up to 4,000 protestors are expected at the European 2nd Division championship fixture, and their target is the extremely odd mix of nations, politics, religion and sport. Norway, Israel, Jersey and France are in Group 2 of the event which runs from Aug 3-9.

There have been large protests over Israel's inclusion, and many have argued that the match against Norway in Glasgow shouldn't take place.

"In that case the USA, China and Russia shouldn't be allowed to have sport. This smacks of discrimination," Stephen Kliner, honorary president of Glasgow's Jewish Representation Council told the BBC.

"The organizers asked us if it would be a problem for us to play the match," Mehtab Afsar, head of Norwegian Cricket, told from Scotland. Afsar gives the impression that the team could not afford not to play.

"It is very important for us to play this tournament. If we win, it will be easier for us to play cricket in Norway. I would rather speak to the demonstrators and explain that we are just here to play cricket," Afsar said.

The Norwegian Muslims live in the same hotel as the Israeli team, and this gives them some uneasy moments.

"This is just something we have to accept, even though we would rather have stayed somewhere else for security reasons. Our only request is that we have our own bus to the match on Saturday," Afsar said.

Cricket Norway is only associated with the European federation, and a good result in Scotland can mean promotion to full membership. This would mean funding for the game in Norway, about NOK 1 million (USD 155,000), Afsar believes. Norway's win over France on Thursday was a good start.

If there is real political anger from the Norwegian team, it is focused on the situation at home.

"Norwegian politicians don't care about cricket at all. It's a disgrace, especially since so many of the players have minority backgrounds," Afsar said.

There is sponsorship interest, and conditions for cricket in Norway are primitive.

There are currently 24 cricket clubs in Norway, divided into three divisions. They play on four grounds.

"We also have ten junior teams and three girls teams, but they have no regular training. I fit them in to what free time I can find," Afsar said.

"We play at a higher level than our (associated) membership would imply. Many teams would like to come to Norway to play us but we have no grounds, we don't even have toilets. Here (Scotland) it is completely different. We have never played on grounds like this," Afsar said.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

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