How Marlborough Cricket Club's 20:20 match will benefit cricket-loving refugees in Berlin

Written by Tony Millett on .

Refugees' fielding practice in BerlinRefugees' fielding practice in BerlinIn recent years, Afghanistan's national cricket team have been making headlines on the world stage.  They qualified for the 2015 Cricket World Cup and won a match.  And this year they took part in the World Twenty20 competition in India - and beat the West Indies.

So it should not surprise us that some of the Afghan refugees who have ended up in Berlin are keen to play cricket.  But the players - mostly Afghans from the border area of their homeland where there is still constant fighting - lack facilities and equipment.  

Marlborough Cricket Club are giving the proceeds - including matche fees and a raffle - of their 20:20 match against the Town Mayor's XI (August 3) to help provide these refugees with cricket facilities and equipment. 

This has been arranged through a contact between St Mary's Team Curate, Rev Dr Janneke Blokland, and St George's Anglican Church in Berlin - a city she used to work in.

The Berlin Cricket Club has been offering the refugees some training and lending them some equipment, but they cannot become members because they cannot afford the membership fee.

They play on the Maifeld, near the 1936 Olympic Stadium.  The Maifeld is where Olympic polo and dressage competitions were held in 1936, and where, during the Cold War, British troops paraded to mark the Queen's Official Birthday.

Refugees dressed for sport at a Berlin centre Refugees dressed for sport at a Berlin centre Marlborough.News' announcement about the cricket match has already brought an enquiry from someone in Luxembourg who is moving soon to Marlborough and has cricket equipment to donate.

To enable readers to have an idea about how the refugees are being received in Berlin Marlborough.News has been in contact with a member of St George's Church.  She has given this snapshot of how the immigrants are being received:

"Your question about numbers is difficult to give just one answer to. 79,000 refugees arrived in Berlin last year and 54,000 are still here. More are arriving.  The original projection for 2016 was 60,000 arrivals.   But so far this year there are 20,000 more.

Most are still in reception centres, some of which are huge - like the former Tempelhof Airport, which has modules for families separated only by curtains. Fortunately, the centres for unaccompanied minors are usually not larger than 50-100 beds, with usually up to 4 beds per unit.

After the kids are registered, they go to school - to "Willkommensklassen".

It takes a long time to get permission to move into local housing.  But then the housing market is very tight in Berlin so that they often stay on in the reception centers for months longer.

Getting jobs is difficult, they have to learn German first and their documentation of past training is usually insufficient. But progress is being made with arrangements for some to continue their studies in university or to enter training or apprenticeships.

All the refugees I have met are eager to learn German--not an easy language, and it entails learning a new alphabet too, of course. They are extremely grateful that Germany is giving them a chance for a safe, new life and they want to show that gratitude by contributing to society as soon as possible.

It is also striking how polite they are. The gentlemanly behavior of opening doors and giving up seats on public transport has faded away in Germany but the refugees are bringing it back.

They are frequently checking their phones to see how things are with their family and friends at home - still at constant risk. The waiting periods while the bureaucracy works through the piles of applications are very difficult for these people who do not want to sit around uselessly.

The summer break, which is a period of freedom for the rest of us who can leave on vacation, is so boring for the refugees. So sports and other cultural activities become particularly important in this period.“