Europe, Globalization, Migration & Refugees
ROME, July 21, 2021 – Following Prime Minister Imran Khan’s comments on the need to promote Pakistaniyat, there is an ongoing debate about what constitutes this ideology and what unites Pakistanis around the world. While this debate can be controversial and polarizing, one thing is certain: the game of cricket is something that brings us all together.
Cricket is everywhere it is featured in speeches in parliament, on TV shows, family discussions over dinner, and has quickly overtaken other historically significant sports in Pakistan, namely field hockey and squash.
Surprisingly, cricket is also a way for overseas Pakistanis to maintain a cultural and nostalgic connection with their home country. Here in Italy, where the Pakistani community numbers nearly 150,000 people, making it the second largest in Europe after the United Kingdom, Pakistanis play an important role in sustaining the spirit and passion of the cricket in a country where football reigns supreme. In northern Italy, in places like Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, Trentino Alto Adige and Veneto, club teams have a large contingent of Pakistani players.
That said, cricket is still in its infancy in the country. Although there is a dynamic league operating under the auspices of Federazione Cricket Italiana, much remains to be done. For example, it is important that more games are played in a calendar year to allow current players to gain more game practice. It is also necessary to make inroads into the Italian school system to encourage young Italians to learn the bat and the cricket ball. Finally, more sponsors must come forward to ensure the survival of cricket in the country.
At the start of the 2021 cricket season, we meet two young Pakistani cricketers, Emi Ghulam, 26, and Zaryan Ijaz, 17, in Rome to understand how cricket plays a role in their identity. Both are versatile and are a regular part of Roma Capannelle (RCCC) 1st XI cricket clubs. Ten years apart, their varied perspectives on gambling, life in Italy, and what it means to be Pakistani in the country make for a fascinating read.
Tell us about yourself and what brought you to cricket?
Emi: I was born in Italy to Pakistani immigrants from Androon Lahore. My father played cricket in Rome. He was an outstanding wicket keeper and was praised for his dynamic attitude behind the stumps. I was inspired by his approach and his passion for the game and it introduced me to cricket.
Zaryan: I was born in Pakistan but have been in Italy for almost 11 years. We are from Mandi Bahauddin and frequently visit Pakistan. My father still plays for Roma Capannelle Cricket Club and his influence as well as his regular trips to Pakistan have been the reason for playing cricket.
How did you learn the game?
Emi: There was no one to teach me the game, which was frustrating. When I first started playing, other people laughed at me for the way I played. It pissed me off even more and made me learn the game independently. I would thank YouTube for teaching me most of what I know. I also have family in Pakistan and England, and on visits to these places I have had the opportunity to observe the game up close at a higher level. Here I must also mention the valuable contributions made by our club president, Francis Alphonsus Jayarajah, and captain, Leandro Mati Jayarajah, who encouraged me to take the game seriously and gave me important responsibilities at within the club.
Zaryan: Cricket runs in my family! My dad still plays the game and my uncle used to play it too.
Who are your influencers in the world of cricket?
Emi: As a child, my father advised me to identify a cricketer to emulate. Watching TV, I used to love Sachin Tendulkar and copy his hitting style. Now the new representatives of the modern stick, Virat Kohli and Babar Azam, are my inspiration. When it comes to bowling, I admired Mohammad Aamir for his ability to swing the ball, but over time I found Wasim Akram and Jimmy Anderson to be more efficient bowlers to follow.
Zaryan: I should say my dad. He played cricket at a very high level at Mandi Bahauddin and I have always been inspired by his background in cricket.
How do you see the perception of Pakistanis in Italy?
Emi: It’s neither positive nor negative somewhere in the middle, I would say. We arise in the news when there are sad incidents of families choosing to kill their daughters, and that is not a good projection of us as people as many of us are exemplary citizens and in professions. respectable. I think there is always respect for Pakistanis who do good deeds.
Zaryan: My experiences with Italians have been positive and I have only positive things to remember. Also, I don’t think this treatment is limited to a big city like Rome, Pakistanis all over the country are considered and treated well.
Can cricket promote better integration into Italian society?
Emi: Indeed, cricket can be useful. When Pakistanis play, people notice them and their manners. They have the opportunity to interact with many Italians, to travel to different cities to participate in tournaments, to learn the language; Also, and this is very important, cricket clubs help players find jobs and adjust to the Italian way of life. But I think any Pakistani who plays the game should play with respect and dignity. Often, Pakistanis fight on the ground, which is not a positive view. I am all for the players to win and give respect on the pitch. That’s what it’s about !
Zaryan: Yes, in principle, but the real problem is that very few Italians play cricket. Playing the game can therefore help to integrate with other migrants, such as Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, etc., but not with ethnic Italians. In order to become familiar with the latter, one must practice sports such as volleyball, basketball and football.
How do you see the role of the Pakistani community (embassy, cultural centers, organizations, ordinary people, etc.) in promoting cricket in Italy?
Emi: Various things. They can help us bring good players into the fold. With good cricketers the level in Italy is bound to improve. I also think that if players like me, and others of Pakistani origin in Italy, had the chance to practice their profession in cricket leagues, such as the Pakistan Super League (PSL), it will have positive impacts. all around.
Zaryan: There is definitely a role the community can play. In particular, I think they can help with the advertising of the game. For example, in and around their businesses, they can put up posters to show their support and promote one of the many clubs that play football.
What are your most valuable cricket-related accomplishments?
Emi: Once I got to number seven with wickets tumbling all around. No one expected me to do anything with the bat that day, but I surprised them all with a quick 40-stroke hit. I crushed almost all bowlers receiving praise from my teammates in the process. This match gave me a lot of confidence and put me on an upward trajectory.
Zaryan: I have been captain of the Under 13 and Under 15 teams for my club. In this role, I helped the team win five games in a row that we played all over Italy, in Bologna, Rome, Naples, etc. I still savor this memory.
What are your future cricket ambitions in Italy?
Emi: I would like the world to see my family in a good light. I would like people to recognize that a quality player has come out of our family. In addition, I am motivated to play for the Italian national team.
Zaryan: I need to work on my physique. I feel that if I can overcome this challenge, I have the courage to reach PSL. I would like to try for one of the teams there. In addition, I would like to play for the Italian national team.
What’s the one thing that you miss a lot in Pakistan?
Emi: FUN. The place is bursting with energy. I miss walking the streets until late at night, seeing how people go about their lives and enjoying good food.
Zaryan: FOOD. I’m a fan of seekh kabab and biryani, and I miss eating these dishes when I’m there.
The writers are Pakistanis who work and live in Rome. This is the fourth in a series of articles on Pakistanis in Italy, and the first which examines how sport can be a powerful means of integration into Italian society.
Source: Friday Times (Pakistan)
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