Cricket club flies to Rome for first interfaith match

A Batley-based cricket club have played a poignant friendly match uniting Christianity and Islam.

Mount Cricket Club, a team of Muslim players, flew more than 1,000 miles to Rome to take part in an interfaith Friendship Cup with the Vatican’s cricket team St Peter’s XI.

The eleven players and their families and the club’s executive committee were also given a personal tour of St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican museums.

Some attended Sunday mass led by Pope Francis.

Despite the team losing the game to St Peter’s, club secretary Suleman Motala said: “The whole occasion was about building bridges between different faiths through cricket and both teams executed that with friendship and mutual respect for each other and their respective faiths.”

Chairman Hanif Mayet added: “The four days in Rome will be etched into our memory and hearts as an unforgettable experience.”

Among those attending the historic event were Australian ambassador John McCarthy, Robin Smith, board director of Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC), Mark Arthur, YCCC’s chief executive, Matt Dwyer, director of participation and growth at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Philip French the ECB’s director of public policy and international relations.

Mr French said: “The experience showed how cricket can break down cultural boundaries and we are so immensely proud of the fact that Mount Cricket Club from Batley was out there and part of that.”

Mr McCarthy added: “The game and the occasion exceeded all my expectations and all my hopes about what could be done through interfaith and ecumenical sports association of this sort.”

Mount Cricket Club was established in 1976 from the local Asian community and has been successful in several leagues across West Yorkshire.

Since 2013, the club has also been working to widen participation in cricket including among the disabled and involve itself with wider community activities such as the Batley Festival.

The men will play a rematch against the Vatican club next year at Headingley.