All Year round Indoor & Outdoor Community Cricket Hubs – S.T.R.E.E.T.S Programme:

Used to understand the level of employability and to develop self-reflection, self-awareness and ambition. This provides a focus for the programme and ensures that participants recognise the contribution of each component to their personal development.

Using Sport to implement UN Sustainable Development Goals – 1,2, 5, 7, 13

In 2017, a group of Afghan refugees were identified as contributing to ASB issues and community conflicts in Luton.  When they were found, many of these vulnerable boys were disengaged from mainstream education, in trouble with police and on the fringe of crime. It quickly became clear that they were in poor mental health and at immense risk of exploitation.

The Afghan journey in Luton began in Feb 2018, when the programme was contacted by Active Luton informing them that a group of Afghan refugees aged 12-17 that loved cricket needed help.  Prior to this the Afghan refugees did not respond to previous attempts by other sporting organisations for help and free sport.  One of the many issues that unfolded was segregation and unwillingness to co-exist.  An example of this was when the local community and Irish travellers wanted to play football, while the refugees wanted to play cricket. In order to resolve the problem in the most effective way, a plan was devised by engaging multiple charities and sports partners from the community.  The outcome was that they eventually learnt to coexist and have now integrated into education and employment.  Soon after Scyld Berry, the Chief Cricket Writer, Daily Telegraph reported the impact of cricket on their lives:

Due to funding constraints, a collective funding effort by multiple partners provided the much-needed resources to keep the group engaged.  Luton’s first Afghan Cricket and Refugee cricket team was created and called “Luton Blue Tigers” which allowed them to play in competitions such as the ECB City Cup, U19 Club T20 and Wicketz internal matches.  The journey of these young men leaving Taliban to creating Luton’s first Afghan team caught the attention of James Burridge of BBC and the Inside Out documentary was made. BBC Inside Out – Afghan Cricket Team (Wicketzluton)

Luton Blue Tigers

“It was hard for me because when I used to go to an elite school [spoke] no English at all, trying to look [for] one person [to talk to] … and being bullied … you can’t speak English, you can’t do this … How am I going to make friends or learn the language?” Arbaaz, refugee and captain of Blue Tigers Luton. 

“When I saw this young boys it almost brought my own background … because being born and raised in Luton there was a lot of racism and I know how it feels to be isolated and to be made vulnerable, so when I saw them [a group of Afghan refugees] it almost came back to me that these young kids are in the same position where I was once upon a time. So if I can help them overcome and face these challenges and give them a pathway then I would have done a good job” Amran Malik, Wicketz Luton coach. 

Further issues uncovered were mental health and violence.  Some of the Afghan team had had a history of violence on the streets, fighting opposition teams and at sometimes fighting each other.  Due to their vulnerability numerous Afghan refugees are being exploited to join gangs and are being provoked to the extent that they are getting abused mentally and physically too.  Others had signs of self-harm.

Our experience with working with Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) shows how pupil’s vulnerabilities and circumstances in life make them more susceptible to violent outbursts and immense risk of exploitation.  From 383 Wicketz registrants, 12 of the most violent and problematic participants were pooled for the purpose of helping them control their outbursts.  After conducting one to ones and subsequent surveys the results showed that the participants wanted to play MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), following in the footsteps of their MMA celebrity Khabib Nurmagomedov.  As many of the troubled youth wanted to play cricket too, an alliance of three organisations was made and Combat Cricket was coined and created.