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Cricket Helps Us Feel at Home in Scottish Borders – Refugees

Three teenagers fleeing from Afghanistan say cricket has made them feel at home in Scotland.

Shokib, Romal and Sadam arrived separately in the UK late last year after leaving the Taliban-controlled country.

None had heard of Galashiels before being moved to the town by authorities.

Support worker Amy Skea said: “It is difficult for young people arriving from a totally different culture, but cricket has made everything easier.”

The fall of Kabul in 2021, following the withdrawal of US and other allied troops, led to a humanitarian crisis across much of Afghanistan.

The three teenagers are still waiting for refugee status, a process which can take up to 18 months. As a result, they have been restricted from finding work and from further education, other than language lessons.

But the wait for official asylum clearance doesn’t restrict them playing the sport they love.

Shokib, who is 17, spent more than a month at a holding hotel in Kent before being sent to the Scottish Borders in December.

He said: “When I first arrived in Galashiels it was hard as I was on my own and didn’t know anyone – I had no friends.

“I just sat around the house, but when I was told about the cricket things changed.

“I now have lots of friends, my English is much better, and my cricket is improving.

“We played tennis ball cricket in Afghanistan on the streets – here it is professional with real balls and bats.”

Romal and Sadam, who are both 16, arrived individually in Galashiels just after new year – having also been staying in Kent hotels.

Romal, who is regarded as a promising spin bowler by his new team-mates at Gala Cricket Club, said: “As soon as I learned that there was a cricket club in Galashiels I was happy.

“I did not know they played cricket in Scotland.

“They get me to play rugby, football and tennis at school, but it is cricket that I love.

“We get coaching and my cricket is improving – so is my English, as there are lots of nice people who help me with words.”

The three asylum seekers attend classes at Galashiels Academy and Borders College during the day.

Their evenings and weekends are mainly spent at Meigle Park cricket ground.

Ms Skea, who is a support worker with Scottish Borders Council, said: “Shokib was the first to arrive, and when we asked him what he liked to do, the first thing he said was ‘cricket’.

“The three boys didn’t know each other before they came to Galashiels.

“Cricket has made a massive difference in how they have settled in.

“They are making friends all the time, improving their English and enjoying their sport.”

Afghan is just the latest nationality in Gala CC’s team list, with players already registered from Sri Lanka, India, South Africa and New Zealand.

Kenny Paterson from the club said: “They boys first came to indoor training in February and I don’t think any of them have missed a session since.

“All of the other players have really taken to them.

“It’s been a positive experience for everyone, and we hope they will be playing cricket here for many years to come.”

Source : BBC