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Cricket in Sweden: Q&A with Shahzeb Choudhry

The Local's Salomon Rogberg talks to Shahzeb Choudry of the Swedish Cricket Federation to review the state of the wicket in the Swedish cricketing world.

Cricket in Sweden: Q&A with Shahzeb Choudhry

The Local: When did people start playing cricket in Sweden?

Choudhry Shahzeb: The Swedish Cricket Federation (SCF) was founded in the 1990s. Initially there were four or five clubs but today there are twenty-six clubs with around 1,500 members spread across the country in diverse places like Umeå, Stockholm, Linköping, Jönköping, Lund, Eskilstuna, Landksrona, Gothenburg and Malmö.

TL: Who plays cricket in Sweden?

CS: 80 percent are expats from cricket-playing countries like South Africa, New Zealand, England, India, Pakistan and Australia, but also Swedish people are starting to play.

RELATED GALLERY:CRICKET IN SWEDEN

TL: Who can play?

CS: Anybody can play. We have people as young as seven and as old as 45. In fact we’re always looking for people to join since we really want to become a member of the Swedish Sports Confederation (Riksidrottsförbundet) as it would help us to get funding that we really need to continue to promote cricket in Sweden.

TL: How many teams and divisions are there in Sweden?

CS: There are two divisions. The first division has thirteen teams and everyone plays against each other. In the second division there are currently six teams who also play one home and one away game. There are of course also extra games in the cups we have throughout the year.

TL: How many games do you play each month?

CS: Overall we play four games per month. But sometimes we play against two teams on one week-end because of the distance between the clubs. For example my team played Gothenburg and Lund on the same weekend.

TL: Is cricket played differently in Sweden?

CS: Internationally, there are three types of cricket matches. First, there is the five day test match, only played by professional teams in ten competing countries. Then there’s the one day format and the Twenty20 cricket, which only takes three hours. The latter two are the formats we play in Sweden.

TL: Sweden isn’t known for its clement climate – what happens then, where do you play, when it’s cold?

CS: The most important thing for a cricket game is good weather. You don’t want to play with dark clouds over you. So, in the winter we play indoors. It’s basically a new thing. But more and more people are trying it out.

TL: Doesn’t playing cricket indoors change the game?

CS: It’s quite different, yes. You play with six players instead of eleven and because the ball is hard, you have to play in a hall without any glass. Also the game becomes very fast, which means you have to catch the ball swiftly and run quick. But the basic principles are the same.

TL: So…are you any good?

CS: Our team, the Stockholm Academics Cricket Society, SACS, wasn’t that good a few years ago. We didn’t have many players and not even a full team at times, but now we’re the biggest club in Sweden.

TL: What’s your best cricketing memory?

CS: That would be winning the Twenty20 championship last year. We played against Malmöhus CC and we went close to the wire, only winning by two runs. That’s as close as it gets in a cricket game.

TL: So, what’s the latest in the world of Swedish cricket?

CS: Well, Nacka CC and Sigtuna CC will compete in the national league final on 10am on Saturday July 28th at Sigtuna Cricket Club’s ground. We’ve sent lots of invites to people and are expecting at least 80-90 people. It’s not a huge turnout but for us it is significant. We’ve also arranged canapés with food and drinks and music.

Also, Sweden’s national team will be playing in the ICC Europe Division 2 tournament in Greece from September 2nd to September 10th.

Salomon Rogberg

Editor’s note: Nacka CC won the title, beating Sigtuna by 23 runs in the July 28th final.

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Could Scandinavian countries lead the way in taking stand against Qatar World Cup?

Vehemently opposed to Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup, football federations in the Nordic countries are putting pressure on Doha and FIFA to improve conditions for migrant workers in the emirate.

Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event.
Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event. Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Together with rights organisation Amnesty International, the federations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland have ratcheted up the pressure in recent months, raising their concerns and presenting recommendations in letters, meetings with officials and pre-game protests.

“We are against holding the World Cup in Qatar, we thought it was a bad decision,” the head of the Danish federation DBU, Jakob Jensen, told AFP.

“It is wrong in many ways. Because of the human rights situation, the environment, building new stadiums in a country with very little stadium capacity,” he said.

Denmark is the only Nordic country to have qualified for the tournament so far. Sweden face a playoff next year to secure a place and Norway, Finland and Iceland have been eliminated.

Leading the charge, the Danish federation regularly publishes the Nordic countries’ letters sent to FIFA and holds talks with Qatari officials, including an October meeting with Qatar head organiser Hassan Al-Thawadi.

The main concern is migrant workers’ rights.

Qatar has faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in the construction of the World Cup stadiums and infrastructure.

Campaigners accuse employers of exploitation and forcing labourers to work in dangerous conditions.

Qatari authorities meanwhile insist they have done more than any country in the region to improve worker welfare, and reject international media reports about thousands of workers’ deaths.

The Nordics have also raised other concerns with al-Thawadi, Jensen said.

“Will homosexuals be allowed to attend the World Cup? Will men and women be able to attend the matches together? Will the press have free access to all sorts of issues to do investigations in the country?”

“And all the answers we received were ‘yes’. So of course we’re going to hold him responsible for that,” Jensen said.

The Danish federation said its World Cup participation would focus on the games played on the pitch, and it will not do anything to promote the event for organisers.

It will limit the number of trips it makes to Qatar, the team’s commercial partners will not take part in official activities there, and its two jersey sponsors will allow training kit to carry critical messages.

In Norway, whose qualification bid fell apart when its best player Erling Braut Haaland missed games through injury, the issue culminated in June when its federation held a vote on whether to boycott the World Cup.

READ ALSO: Norway’s economic police call for boycott of Qatar World Cup

Delegates ultimately voted against the idea, but an expert committee recommended 26 measures, including the creation of a resource centre for migrant workers and an alert system to detect human rights violations and inform the international community.

Like other teams, Norway’s squad also protested before each match by wearing jerseys or holding banners like the one unfurled during a recent match against Turkey, reading “Fair play for migrant workers”.

But the Nordic countries have not always acted in line with their own campaign.

Last month at a Copenhagen stadium, a Danish fan was ordered to take down his banner criticising the World Cup in Qatar, as FIFA rules prohibit political statements.

And Sweden’s federation recently scratched plans to hold its winter training camp in the emirate as it has done the past two years.

Sweden’s professional clubs had protested against the hypocrisy of holding the camp there while at the same the federation was leading the protests with Nordic counterparts.

The professional clubs wanted to send a “signal”, the chairman of Swedish Professional Football Leagues, Jens Andersson, told AFP.

Individual players have also spoken out. 

Finland’s captain Tim Sparv last week issued a joint appeal with Amnesty demanding that “FIFA must ensure that human rights are respected”, adding: “We are in debt to those people who have worked for years in poor conditions.”

So far, none of FIFA’s 200 other member federations have joined the Nordic campaign.

“Hopefully all these Nordic neighbours of ours and us taking these steps will have an impact on other countries,” Mats Enquist, secretary general of the Swedish Professional Football League, told AFP.

“We need to ensure that all the aspects of football, not just the richest, are really taken care of when we come to a place.”

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