By HERNÁN MUÑOZ, BARCELONA, Spain (AP):- The crack of leather on willow is not a sound one associates with Spain. There will be a connection from 2022, however, when Barcelona builds a cricket ground thanks to an upwelling of public support for a women’s team.
Barcelona’s city hall asked citizens last month to choose an initiative as part of a 30 million euro ($35 million) investment package in new facilities and improvements to public spaces.
The plan to spend 1.2 million euros ($1.4 million) on a cricket pitch finished first in the voting among 184 proposals.
The big win for a sport largely unknown in Spain is thanks to a campaign led by a group of young women, mostly first-generation Spaniards, some of them Indian and Pakistani immigrants living in working-class suburbs of Barcelona. What started by word of mouth soon generated traction once it caught the attention of the local media.
“It’s a dream come true to have won the vote after all the effort we put in,” said cricket player Nadia Mustafa, an 18-year-old university student.
“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 amenities specific to cricket.
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 the Mediterranean city doesn’t have facilities for this still exotic sport. Instead, an empty parking lot or field has to do for those looking to show their batting and bowling skills.
Now, players will have their own pitch, right next to Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium on a hill overlooking the city.
“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, a 30-year-old greengrocer. “We won’t have to think of getting cars and means of transportation to play elsewhere. We will have our field here.”
AP writer Joseph Wilson contributed to this report.