Not content with one shout out about his work early on from Sport Wales Mojeid Ilyas our Cricket Wales Diverse Communities Development Officer tells us about the impact he's having and seeing in the women's game:-
I am extremely pleased to be writing this piece about the development of women’s cricket which also celebrates the black and bi-racial community’s contribution to the game of cricket.
When approached to write this piece I thought it would only be right for the focus to be on the huge strides Cricket Wales and Glamorgan Cricket, have made in promoting the women’s game for ethnic minorities across Wales.
My role within Cricket Wales is as the ‘Diverse Communities’ Development Officer’ for the areas of Cardiff and Newport. One of the main goals of my job when I first appointed in May earlier this year was to promote the women’s game to the diverse communities across Cardiff and Newport. In all honesty, it was a task that I thought would be incredibly difficult, as I unaware of the demand for the game in those communities as well as being fully aware of having to deal with the variety of issues that I originally thought would come my way. However, it was quite the opposite, mainly due to the help of some great volunteers in the community, Cricket Wales and Glamorgan Cricket.
Some examples of the projects we have managed to put on to date:
- Go4Girls Dynamos Cricket Programme- This was a programme that was funded by Sky, in line with their efforts to promote the game of cricket across various communities. The programme itself was run brilliantly by Rebecca Thomas and her two daughters for a duration of 8 weeks and was held at a warehouse in Riverside; an area that is amongst the most diverse regarding ethnicities across Wales. This programme was set up thanks to the brilliant work of the Go4Girls team aswell as Llandaff Cricket Club and we managed to get up to thirty-one girls signed up for the programme, many of whom had no real interaction with the game of cricket until then. The main success story of this project was seeing girls from an East-African background being introduced to the game of cricket; a community that would rarely be in contact with the sport usually. However, once receiving their personalised Dynamos Cricket shirts and equipment, it didn’t look like a sport that forget about.
- Women’s Softball Cricket at Sophia Gardens- This project has been a massive success to date and has been run weekly at Sophia Gardens’ indoor cricket centre from June earlier this year. These sessions due to the high demand for the performance centre at Sophia Gardens are run late on Thursday evenings, however, participants are also coming through the door with numbers of between 15-20 women from South Asian, Arabic and East- African background coming together to play the sport they love.
- Cricket Wales Diverse Community’s Festival at Newport Cricket Club- In partnership with Mike Knight (Chairman of Newport Cricket Club) we were able to set up this festival to celebrate and reward the brilliant work of both men and women across Wales in promoting the game. It was a festival that was run in partnership with the National Asian Cricket Council (NACC), and it was great to see Chairman Gulfraz Riaz at Newport Cricket Club talking so passionately about spreading the game to the diverse communities of Wales. A major positive of this festival once again were the large numbers of women and girls who attended, with around 20-25 women taking part in softball games and 25-30 young girls being introduced to the game of cricket.
The roles of Llandaff Cricket Club, Cricket Wales and Glamorgan Cricket
It would be extremely unfair not to mention the huge roles that the above have played in promoting the women’s game, here are just a few examples of what they have done to date:
- Llandaff Cricket Club- It would be fair to say that Llandaff Cricket Club are the leading cricket club in Wales when it comes to the number of diverse members in terms of ethnic minorities the club have, for both men and women. The club has been a huge help in setting up cricketing activity for children across Cardiff, however the women have taken that responsibility to a different level. Key figures at the club such as Ayesha Rauf and Alia Khan have volunteered to run soft ball sessions at Sophia Gardens as well as promoting a variety of projects Cricket Wales have run. A great success story being the partnership they formed with the Go4Girls Foundation, which saw there U12 girls’ section being invited to the Dynamos Cricket sessions and many staying with the foundation to enjoy a variety of other activities such as rock-climbing, horse-back riding and white-water rafting.
- Cricket Wales and Glamorgan Cricket- One of the most refreshing things to see is seeing organisations understand as well as respect differences in culture and religion and it is something that Cricket Wales and Glamorgan Cricket have been outstanding at. An example can be seen with the community team at Glamorgan Cricket, who have allowed us to hire out all seven lanes at the indoor centre, for the women’s softball cricket, even though there are only around 15/20 women at each session. This is in order to allow the women to have their own ‘safe space’ to be physically active without the presence of men at sessions due to religious beliefs. They have even gone to the extent of ensuring no one passes through the indoor centre whilst the women are playing. Cricket Wales as an organisation have been just as brilliant, ensuring that they get specialist women’s coaches to lead sessions and providing funding for a wide range of activities to be run.
Here are some examples of what it means to the women to be able to express themselves through the sport we all love
After moving to Cardiff late January due to covid, we weren't sure how we'd get to meet people being in a new place and especially during covid times, but we were able to find out about the ladies’ cricket club through a friend of my mum's who got us in touch with basketball that's also ran by our coach. After attending that for few weeks our coach, Ayesha, invited us to come try out cricket with Llandaff's ladies’ team. Honestly cricket was never a sport I had any interest in growing up but now I can safely say I'm in love.
I'm half Nigerian and half English which is unlike most of the members of the club who are South Asian but seriously, ever since joining I've never found that the colour of my skin or race has had any effect on anything and I think that's great. As a team we're all able to get on well despite our backgrounds and the banter is always top class. One of the things I've been most impressed by (besides how thrilling playing cricket really is) is how welcoming everyone has been from the get-go. Even without having a car or even knowing how to drive my two sisters (who are also part of the club) and I have never had any issues getting anywhere even for the festivals way out of town because our teammates have always offered to give lifts without a second’s hesitation (a special thanks two of them who practically adopted us when we were new).
It might not sound like much but it's something I really value. We not only play well together as a team but we all seriously get on and that's what makes it all the better and feel like a community that I'm grateful and proud to be a part of.
A few weeks ago, I joined Ladies Softball (cricket training).
My interest in cricket only began earlier this year when my son started playing it at school - and really enjoyed it. My family and I also went to a live Glamorgan match. I mentioned this to my friend (who attends sessions at Sophia Gardens), and she encouraged me to join up.
From day one, the coaches and all the ladies - without exception - have been so friendly and welcoming, they have also been hugely encouraging to someone who has never played before. On a couple of occasions, I haven't felt like going to training - it's about a 30-minute drive for me & I don't get home 'til around 9.30pm - but as soon as I arrive, all the ladies say hello, ask how I am and how my week has been. They are full of smiles, laughter, enthusiasm and encouragement and it makes me glad that I made the effort.
The training lasts for about an hour - it's fun, interesting and full of excellent cricket tips!
I look forward to training and being part of a diverse group of women who are predominantly from the BAME community. Playing cricket with them has empowered me and strengthened my confidence.
I'm really pleased that I have joined up - it really is a great team sport and would encourage anyone considering it, to give it a try.
Mojeid Ilyas- Cricket Wales Diverse Communities Development Officer