Cricket for change in south Serbia

TransConflict Serbia and the Serbian Cricket Federation – in conjunction with Cricket for Change and the Center for Tolerance and Integration of Southern Serbia – organized an inaugural Street20 Cricket tournament in the main square in Bujanovac, Serbia.

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The event on Tuesday 3rd July 2012 – which was generously supported by the British Embassy in Serbia, the UN’s PBILD (Peacebuilding and Inclusive Local Development) programme, UNICEF, ICC-Europe and the municipality of Bujanovac – provided some 35 Albanian, Serbian and Roma children with a unique opportunity to learn a new and largely unknown sport.

Street20 Cricket is a simplified form of cricket, designed to be played in urban environments, making use, for instance, of existing basketball courts or sports halls. Requiring only four to eight players, two bats, two sets of plastic stumps and a ball, Street20 Cricket is readily accessible to all; allowing those who have never before encountered cricket to play on their very doorstep, much to the bemusement of passers-by and the watching elderly gentlemen.

The event was attended by Mr. Ajredin Hida, the president of the Bujanovac municipal assembly, Mr. Alex Brooks, second secretary at the British Embassy, and Mr. Nicholas Hercules, programme manager of the UN’s Peace-Building and Inclusive Local Development (PBILD) programme in south Serbia.

Trainings and demonstrations were conducted by three highly-experienced Cricket for Change coaches from the UK – Andy Sellins, Andy Dalby-Welsh and Danny Baker – along with members of the Serbian national cricket team. From fielding, to batting, to bowling, the participants were introduced to the key skills of the sport and, more importantly, the spirit in which cricket is traditionally played. After a series of training drills and games, the participants were divided into four mixed teams to compete against one another in six aside matches, with each team bowling 20 balls each.

Cricket for Change is a UK-based organization that uses cricket to change the lives of disadvantaged young people. Cricket for Change has set up programmes in a variety of countries, including Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Cuba, Uganda and Tanzania, and has worked to provide persons with disabilities – particularly those who are blind or partially-sighted – with the chance to play cricket.

Andy Sellins, the chief executive of Cricket for Change, emphasized how “we were delighted to be asked to contribute to the great work being undertaken by the Serbian Cricket Federation and TransConflict with marginalized young people and their communities. We understand the power of cricket to bring young people together in a neutral and safe environment and this is exactly what we saw taking place during our recent visit. A range of excellent local partnerships are already in place with UNICEF, PBILD, the British Embassy and the Centre for Tolerance and Integration in South Serbia. We are now keen to work closely with TransConflict, the Serbian Cricket Federation and the International Cricket Council to develop a programme across the region and help create safer environments for many more young people.”

Thanks to donations of Kwik Cricket equipment to the local community, it is hoped that Street20 Cricket will become a regular feature of life in Bujanovac, with plans in-place to organize follow-up demonstrations and trainings. Vladimir Ninkovic, the secretary-general of the Serbian Cricket Federation and a project officer at TransConflict Serbia, was extremely impressed by the enthusiasm for cricket, adding that “this is just the beginning of our work in southern Serbia. The next step is to provide trainings to physical education teachers and coaches on the basic rules of Street20 Cricket and various training sessions that they can conduct – plus the organization of Street20 Cricket tournaments and matches – so that cricket becomes a widely-played sport in Bujanovac and elsewhere in Serbia”.

In the coming months, TransConflict Serbia and the Serbian Cricket Federation will organize a series of Street20 Cricket trainings and tournaments in Serbia, starting with events in various suburbs of Belgrade this summer.

If you are interested in playing Street20 Cricket in your local community, then please contact Vladimir Ninkovic by clicking here.

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