Up to now, cricket has been very much a niche sport in Germany. But that is changing. In Bremen, a woman is calling the shots in this male-dominated sport – with great success. Her men’s team are the 2016 German cricket champions.
For ‘her boys’ Nisar Tahir is like a mother. She is always ready to listen. “Everyone respects me,” says the 47-year-old, whose roots are in Pakistan. She takes a real maternal pride in her boys. And with good reason. The men’s cricket team of SG Findorff in Bremen are the current German champions, and they also count the player of the year among their ranks. That’s all thanks to Nisar Tahir. Without her, there wouldn’t even be any team cricket in Bremen. She set up the section a few years ago and remains in charge of it. That makes this vivacious woman an exception within the male-dominated sport in Germany.
For most Germans cricket is a bit of a mystery, to say the least. Nevertheless, the sport is currently experiencing a huge boom in the country. Five years ago the German Cricket Board (DCB) consisted of 1,500 players in 70 teams nationwide, now there are more than 4,000 players in over 200 teams. This is due to the refugees and immigrants. Cricket is not just popular in England, but also in countries belonging to the Commonwealth of Nations, such as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – as well as in Afghanistan.
Nisar Tahir remembers cricket from back home. The sport has always been very important to her. “In Pakistan cricket is on TV day and night,” she says. As a child she even used to have a go at bowling and batting herself, before coming to Bremen with her family aged eleven. In her new home other sports took priority; her daughters play tennis. Her husband Muhammad, also originally from Pakistan, has always been a cricket fan as well, and likes to watch matches on TV even in Bremen. “Our daughters would sit and watch, and eventually they asked: Where can we play that?” For Nisar Tahir that was the push to start setting up cricket in Bremen.
Nisar Tahir, who works as a chiropodist, got her trainer’s licence from the regional sports federation and organised a cricket group at her daughters’ school in Findorff. “Now my daughters are not just playing tennis, but cricket as well,” she says with a laugh. But she was keen to inspire more people with her love for the game. SG Findorff eventually let her set up a cricket section in 2013. “They wanted something special,” says Nisar Tahir, who trains the women and girls, and also plays on the women’s team herself. The men’s team, led by Iftikhar Khan, consists entirely of players whose origins are in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some of them have to travel long distances in order to be able to train in Bremen, as they are working or studying in Oldenburg or Vechta.
Hamid Wardak also travels a long way for training; he lives in Bremerhaven with his wife and young son. The 29-year-old is not only German champion as part of the SG Findorff team, he is also the 2016 player of the year, because the public found his performance particularly impressive. That’s not entirely surprising, as he used to be a professional player in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As a child he fled to Pakistan with his family to escape the civil war in Afghanistan. “Everyone there loves cricket,” he recalls.
As a successful sportsman he earned good money in Pakistan. But he disapproved of the corruption within the cricket board. Disappointed, he left Pakistan about six years ago, following his German wife to Bremerhaven. “I wanted a better future,” Hamid Wardak explains in perfect German. “I am grateful for the opportunity I have here to achieve whatever I want.” He completed a vocational training course in IT administration, and also works as an interpreter for the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. “Cricket is just a hobby for me now,” he says. A very time-consuming hobby though, as Hamid Wardak is also a member of the German national team.
For players from Pakistan and Afghanistan cricket is a reminder of home, according to Nisar Tahir. That is especially true for the unaccompanied refugee minors who joined SG Findorff on her initiative. When the influx of refugees was at its peak, she deliberately went to the shelters and asked if anyone would like to train with the club. There was a lot of interest. “To start with, I used to pick them up and then take them back afterwards,” says Nisar Tahir. “They were really excited.” Three of the refugees she recruited are now in the men’s team that won the 2016 German Championships.
Nisar Tahir regards this as a big success. It has always been important to her that ‘her’ refugees also used the training to integrate. “We speak German here,” she says with determination. She is also keen to impart rules of German behaviour, insisting that everyone shakes hands and looks each other in the eye as they arrive and leave. She has also taught some of them to cook. One of her charges has just qualified for his instructor’s licence. “I am very proud of that,” she says. After all, cricket is booming and trainers are much in demand.
For more information visit http://cricket.sg-findorff.de/
Press contact: SG Findorff, Cricket Abteilung, Nisar Tahir, tel: +49 (0)176 6382 2432, Cricket@sg-findorff.de
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