Cricket in the heart of Cardiff

Cardiff on a Sunday morning. Fast paced action, sporting drama and plenty of camaraderie. Such scenes are often associated with the Principality Stadium, but head just a mile down the road to a sports hall within Butetown Pavilion and you’ll find just as much entertainment.

The Grangetown Street Project, hosted weekly by Cricket Wales, has become a much-loved hub in a local community that for so many years was starved of such opportunities.

“The passion for cricket here was clear, in particular around Pakistan and India games in the World Cup. Unfortunately, there was not much being put on cricket wise,” explains Mojeid Ilyas, Diverse Communities Development Officer at Cricket Wales.

“The project here came about by working with teachers and community leaders at a local Muslim Cultural Centre. We’ve put a massive focus on regular cricket and Chance to Shine has been brilliant; the funding they provide for coaches to come regularly, for hall hire, for venue hire – a lot of these kids have gone from not playing the game of cricket at all, to playing consistently. Some of them are even joining clubs in the summer.”

Naturally it’s never as simple as ‘build it and they will come’. A deep-rooted understanding of the community was required to ensure that the project would hit the ground running after its inception in 2022. Coaches have been sourced and trained from the local area, providing reassuringly familiar faces for the youngsters coming through the doors.

“It’s so important,” says Mojeid (affectionately known as ‘Muji’ by youngsters at the session). “Rather than just going into the existing coaching system, we’ve gone into the community and we’ve got them qualified. They’re running our sessions and I think that’s what has really allowed this programme to kick off. It’s run by people from the community, for the community.”

One of those coaches, 20-year-old Nooh, is certainly relishing his first steps into the world of cricket.

“It’s really opened my eyes, I learned a lot from the coaching courses,” he says.

   Noor (left) coaches Street participants

“It’s just nice to see the kids look up to you. It’s really rewarding. Some of them come to ask for advice and there’s nothing better than that. Knowing that kids can come to you and that they see you as a role model.”

Nooh’s bond with the participants, and indeed their parents, is bolstered by his impressive ability to speak English, Welsh, Somali and Arabic.

“You get kids from all different backgrounds. I never thought about it when I was picking up these languages but it’s really helping,” adds Nooh, who says a lack of sporting options in his childhood has driven him to coach as many different sports as possible.

“You can connect a lot more, and even the parents that bring their kids here, they see me speaking the language and that is important. It builds trust.”

That connection has benefits that extend way beyond the four walls of the facility in Butetown. 14-year-old Hashir admits that his temper has got the better of him in the past, but he has found Chance to Shine sessions to be a calming influence.

“It keeps your mind away from bad things and it helps you focus,”  he says. “If I have any problems, I want to come here. It makes me happy to be with my friends and to play cricket, it helps me a lot mentally. When I first started I was not that calm but I don’t get as angry anymore. So it helps me a lot.”

It doesn’t take long to understand why so many young people in the area flock to this project. Once a month, Mojeid and his team put on a round robin competition – dividing their participants into four teams, handing out trophies to the winners and finishing off with a communal meal, where every shot and catch is relived in detail. The buzz is tangible.

    Coach Mojeid hands out the Trophies

“Sport is a language in itself. What’s really powerful about the community within Grangetown and Butetown is that it’s so diverse. It allows kids from different backgrounds; Afghani, Pakistani, Somali and Yemeni to actually come together. That’s something that’s extremely powerful within these communities.

“A lot of parents are worried about screen time. They love it when we can get them having two, three hours of good physical activity out here. And a lot of parents have actually gone back and spoken about buying plastic sets of equipment for their kids, because they’re so eager to play in the back garden.”

That knock on effect perhaps sums up the beauty of Butetown. And whether a child wants to aim for the professional game, or simply become the best version of themselves – their coaches are there to guide them on the journey.

“As a coach we have that fine line of understanding that some of these kids have actually just come to be around their friends, and some of them will want to take it a step further,” says ‘Muji’, ducking a tape ball as it crashes into the wall behind him.

“When there are boys that look promising, we actually flag that to the regional programmes. But these kids are developing holistically, with communication and social development as well. That’s where the programme is wider than the game of cricket.”

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