Cricket brings Afghan evacuees and councillors together

Published: Monday 5 September 2022

Updated: Tuesday 6 September 2022


Cricket-loving Afghan evacuees have had their dedication to training rewarded with commemorative caps presented by Kensington and Chelsea’s Mayor.

The young players, who have been practising every week since late 2021, received the caps from Cllr David Lindsay after taking on a select team of councillors in a match in Holland Park yesterday.

In addition to the caps, which were funded by the Council’s parks contractor Idverde, the players have received bespoke shirts embroidered with the borough’s crest and sporting each player’s name and preferred number.

The friendly match, which was preceded by a joint warm-up session, took place in bright sunshine and saw Afghans and councillors taking it in turns to bat, bowl and field. Despite some swift bowling from Cllr Johnny Thalassites and inventive strokes from Cllr Tom Bennett, the Afghan team's training paid off as they emerged victorious.

The training sessions have been a huge hit with evacuees staying in bridging hotels in the borough ever since they were started by Head of Leisure and Parks Ullash Karia in 2021.

Cllr Emma Will, Lead Member for Culture, Leisure and Community Safety, said:

“Sport unites people from all backgrounds, and this cricket match brought our councillors and Afghan guests together to meet, talk and enjoy some friendly competition in the magnificent surroundings of Holland Park.


“The players have been totally committed to the training, turning up each week no matter the weather, and they are clearly developing into excellent cricketers.


“Congratulations to them on their victory and I'm grateful to our officers for giving up their time to run the sessions and to idverde for helping to kit the players out."

Regular player Basir said:

“It was great receiving the new shirts. Before we were all wearing different clothes, but now we have the same shirts and we feel more like a team. It unites us while we are playing cricket.


“All of the guys were happy to have something that makes them feel united and I hope we keep up our momentum and have more and more victories in our K&CCC blue shirts and caps.”

Ullash Karia, Head of Leisure and Parks, said:

“We wanted to give participants a sense of identity and reward them for their regular commitment. They have turned up through the fasting month of Ramadan and the pouring rain in May and now through the prolonged extremely hot spell.


“Their smiling and beaming faces when they received the shirts and caps speak volumes.”

In addition to the cricket sessions, the Parks and Leisure team have worked with the Council’s leisure operators to offer free three-month memberships to use both Kensington Leisure Centre and Chelsea Sports Centre.

They are also exploring volunteering, training, and work opportunities for the participants through leisure, grounds maintenance, and the Council’s café contract.