Football and Barcelona have a deep connection. But you don't associate cricket with the Spanish city. However, that is set to change with Barcelona planning to build a cricket ground next year.
According to the Associated Press, the Barcelona city hall asked its citizens last month to choose an initiative as part of a $35 million plan for new facilities and improvements to public spaces.
The plan to build a cricket pitch, at a cost of $1.4 million, was first in the voting among 184 proposals. The ground will be built next to Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium on a hill overlooking the city.
The campaign was led by a group of young women, mostly first-generation Spaniards, and a few Indian and Pakistani immigrants.
“It’s a dream come true to have won the vote after all the effort we put in,” cricketer Nadia Mustafa, an 18-year-old university student, told AP.
“We spent weeks encouraging people to vote for our project so we could win. And in the end, we were able to get the first cricket field in Barcelona for us to play and train.”
Besides the pitch, the project includes changing and storage rooms, lights, and other cricket-specific amenities.
Barcelona has large Pakistani and Indian communities, and there are some 400 cricketers in Barcelona divided among 25 men’s and women’s teams. But for the most part, empty parking lots and fields have been used as playing areas.
Now, players will have their own ground.
“We are happy. Soon, in a year or a year and a half, we will have our own field here in Barcelona,” said team coach Shahbaz Shauqad. “We won’t have to think of getting cars and means of transportation to play elsewhere. We will have our field here.”
The International Cricket Council is pushing for the globalisation of cricket, especially into new territories. The governing body is hoping to have T20 cricket as an event at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
Cricket last featured in the 1900 Olympics in Paris. The biggest stumbling block, so far, had been the Indian cricket board's reluctance to relinquish its autonomy and become answerable to the country's Olympic committee. The BCCI, however, changed its stance recently.