By Talek Harris
After a long week of cooking and cleaning in Hong Kong’s cramped households, a group of Filipino domestic workers are using their Sunday off for an unlikely hobby: cricket. And they turn out to be pretty good at it.
Despite no background in the game, little coaching and very little time, the SCC Divas have had a surprising impact, winning the Hong Kong development league twice in their first two seasons and remaining unbeaten since heading to the main divisions this year .
Along the way, they’ve inspired the Philippines’ first women’s national cricket team by supplying seven of its players, while shaking up Hong Kong’s sleepy cricket scene, a holdover from British colonialism.
We are all domestic workers. Some are new players, holding a cricket ball for the first time, said Josie Arimas, 52, captain and founder of the SCC Divas.
The satisfying patter of bat on ball, at the scenic Po Kong Village Cricket Ground overlooking verdant hills and tower blocks, is a world away from everyday life for the Divas.
Many of them work from 6 a.m. to midnight, six days a week, scrubbing, shopping, and caring for children to support their own children and families left behind in the Philippines.
They don’t get any rest. They are strong, Arimas said.
Six hours off a month
Stories of abuse and exploitation abound among Hong Kong’s 400,000 foreign domestic workers, most of them from the Philippines or Indonesia.
A housekeeper who watched the Divas said that instead of the government-mandated rest day each week, her employer only releases her six hours a month and lets her sleep in the living room.
For Divas player Liza Avelino, cricket is an opportunity to escape the difficulties of everyday life.
It’s very relaxing, it makes my day worth it, she said. It’s good to be active and forget about all the stress and problems and everything.
In this month’s 45-run win over the Cavaliers, a team of the venerable and well-off Hong Kong Cricket Club, the Divas skills honed in baseball, a popular sport in the Philippines, were evident.
Positive punch helped put down a challenging total of 167-6, before the Divas narrowed the Cavaliers down to 122-4 with some vigorous fieldwork, including two side direct hits to the stumps.
The team was cheered on everywhere by a vocal group of teammates and supporters, who picnic near the border cord and served the scoreboard.
They are so excited about it. They all come here and they all watch and they make a day of it, said Cavaliers captain Tracy Walker, an independent Cricket Hong Kong board member.
They get one day off a week, and what do they do? They come to watch, cheer and train whenever they can. It’s pretty impressive.
Just three years after their founding in 2017, the Divas have already formed a development team, SCC Pinay, and are committed to being a lasting force in Hong Kong cricket.
Team manager Aminesh Kulkarni, who co-founded the team with Arimas and collects sponsorships to pay for dues, equipment and other expenses, says the goal is to provide domestic workers with a positive pastime on their day off.
The Filipinos have that collectible culture. So if one comes, a few will come. One player started spending time here, and now we have 32, said Kulkarni.
My goal is ultimately about 200. It will happen in the coming years.
Alvina Tam, Cricket Hong Kong development director and a Cavaliers player, said the Divas had added a new element to the sport in the city, which is dominated by the expatriate and South Asian community.
What they brought to women’s cricket in Hong Kong was their sense of unity, the sense of teamwork and cooperation, Tam said.
And at the same time they can still maintain a very friendly attitude towards the opposition. I think that’s a really good show of sportsmanship.
For the Divas players, separated from their families and far from home, the team also serves as a support network, according to Avelino.
It’s not all about sports, it’s also about having a family to meet up with. It’s a very close relationship, sisterhood, she said.
Being away from home to get a group of people to do the same is very powerful. We love it and we look forward to doing it on Sundays.
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