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IMMIGRATION

Immigrants dream of playing cricket – for Sweden

The thwack of leather against willow is the sound that for inhabitants of countries from Pakistan to Australia signifies the game of cricket. Immigration means that it's a sound being heard more and more in Sweden, as Nicholas Chipperfield finds out.

Forget football’s mass appeal, frenzied fawning over ice hockey heroes and innebandy’s cult following, Sweden is home to a growing and devoted band of cricketers determined to boost the sport’s profile and lead the national side back to international competition.

“The number of those playing cricket has increased a lot in the last two years – interest has developed,” Rashid Zafar Waraich, chairman of the Swedish Cricket Federation (SCF), tells The Local.

Around 98 percent of the some 250 adults playing cricket in Swedish clubs are ex-pats, many of whom have roots in major cricketing nations, predominantly Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the West Indies, Australia and England, Waraich says.

Some 100 juniors – under 19s – also play. With backing from the International Cricket Council (ICC), the SCF has overseen the establishment of a cricket academy in Malmö where 30 youngsters between the ages of nine and fourteen are given the chance to nurture cricketing greatness. A second academy is planned for Stockholm during the 2007 season.

Cricket’s notoriously complex rules and day-long matches have meant however that few Swedes have taken up the sport.

“I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of Swedes who play cricket,” Waraich laments.

A thriving local club scene however is attracting growing numbers to the sport on a part-time and amateur basis. Half the players on Waraich’s Stockholm-based Botkyrka Cricket Club are engineers.

“I am a civil engineer, we also have an IT consultant, a cook and the rest are university students,” he says.

“Half the team are friends of mine from Pakistan, many of whom came to Sweden, married Swedes, got jobs or studied.”

There are currently 18 cricket clubs throughout Sweden with varying degrees of activity. Eight of these clubs are poised to compete in Sweden’s premier cricket league, the National League, in the 2007 season.

The league includes current champions Spånga United CC, Malmöhus CC, Botkyrka CC, Jinnah CC’s two teams, Eleven Stars CC, Sigtuna CC and Pakistan CC.

The 2007 season gets underway on May 5th with fixtures planned between all eight teams. The final is due to be played in August.

Other competitions include the Jinnah Cup, the Swedish Cricket Cup and the Academic Cup played between the Stockholm Academic Cricket Society (SACS) and Uppsala University CC.

The SCF is planning to field a Swedish national team in Division Five of the European Championship in 2008, when they face Austria, Switzerland and three other teams yet to be announced.

“I think in five to seven years’ we can imagine Sweden winning a European ICC tournament,” Waraich says, grinning.

Swedish cricketers are no strangers to international competition. In 1997 Sweden became an affiliate member of the ICC, joining Afghanistan, Bahrain, Myanmar, Norway, Rwanda and South Korea among today’s total of 55 aspiring cricketing nations.

The team took part in the European Cricket Championships, a tournament for European ICC affiliate members held every two years, in 1999 and 2001. In their 1999 campaign Sweden reached the semi-finals where they lost to eventual

winners Greece by six wickets.

Two years later however the Swedes came last in the ten-team tournament and Sweden has not played an international fixture since.

Team selection for the 2008 European Championship will be based upon performance of Sweden’s eight league teams, individual performances and, ultimately, availability determined by who can get time off work to play.

To qualify for the national team, players must be Swedish nationals or have lived in Sweden for at least 183 days per year for the past three years.

Lacking commercial sponsorship and with cricket in its in infancy in Sweden, players must buy their own bats, balls and related equipment abroad. The vast majority of cricket kit in Sweden today has been bought at players’ own expense, often in England and Pakistan.

For those who play, cricket in Sweden is a labour of love.

“Cricket is in my blood. We have small goals and we hope to achieve those goals one by one,” Waraich says.

Nicholas Chipperfield

The World in Sweden Series:The Local is compiling a series of articles on how people and cultures from around the world are influencing Swedish life.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

In Sweden, a sambo is domestic partner – someone you’re in a relationship with and live with, but to whom you aren’t married. If you, as a non-EU citizen, are in a sambo relationship with a Swedish citizen, you can apply for a residence permit on the basis of that relationship. But meeting the requirements of that permit is not always straightforward.

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

An American reader, whose son lives with his Swedish partner, wrote to The Local with questions about the maintenance requirement her son and his partner must meet in order to qualify for a sambo resident permit.

“Their specific issue is that they meet the requirements for a stable relationship and stable housing, but have been told that qualifying for a sambo visa based on savings is unlikely,” she wrote, asking for suggestions on how to approach this issue. Her son’s partner is a student with no income, but whose savings meet maintenance requirements. But, they have been told by lawyers that Migrationsverket will likely deny the application based on the absence of the Swedish partner’s income.

How do relationships qualify for sambo status?

In order to apply for a residence permit on the basis of a sambo relationship, you and your partner must either be living together, or plan to live together as soon as the non-Swedish partner can come to Sweden. Because this reader’s son is already in Sweden as a graduate student, he can apply for a sambo permit without having to leave the country, provided that his student permit is still valid at the time the new application is submitted.

The Migration Agency notes that “you can not receive a residence permit for the reason that you want to live with a family member in Sweden before your current permit expires”. So once your valid permit is close to expiration, you can apply for a new sambo permit.

What are the maintenance requirements for a sambo permit?

The maintenance requirements for someone applying for a sambo permit fall on the Swedish partner, who must prove that they are able to support both themselves and their partner for the duration of the permit. This includes both housing and financial requirements.

In terms of residential standards that applicants must meet, they must show that they live in a home of adequate size – for two adult applicants without children, that means at least one room with a kitchen. If rented, the lease must be for at least one year.

The financial requirements are more complicated. The Swedish partner must be able to document a stable income that can support the applicant and themselves – for a sambo couple, the 2022 standard is an income of 8,520 kronor per month. This burden falls on the Swedish partner.

While the Migration Agency’s website does say that you may “fulfil the maintenance requirement (be considered able to support yourself) if you have enough money/taxable assets to support yourself, other persons in your household and the family members who are applying for a residence permit for at least two years”, it is unclear how proof of this would be documented. On a separate page detailing the various documents that can be used to prove that maintenance requirements are met, there is nothing about how to document savings that will be used to support the couple.

Can you apply on the basis of savings instead of income?

Well, this is unclear. The Migration Agency’s website does suggest that having enough money saved up to support both members of the sambo relationship is an option, but it gives no details on how to document this. It is also unclear whether applying on the basis of savings will disadvantage applicants, with preference given to applicants who can show proof of income from work.

The Local has reached out to an immigration lawyer to answer this question. 

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