The people of South Asia have fallen in love with cricket; they have embraced it up to a point where it’s part of themselves – their features, their hands and their culture. And those Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who have left their countries searching for a new place to live, have taken their sport with them. In Dubai, expatriates make up more than 60% of the residents; therefore, cricket has come to be a natural part of city life.
Fridays in Dubai means cricket time – this is the day when Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi workers go out on the streets, markets and squares to get some rest after a hard week’s work. With their morning-to-evening sessions of cricket (and other sports), these players add life to the vacant lots in the old city. It is only during those moments that you can see joy in their faces; only during those moments can you hear laughter as if they owned the universe. But cricket is not only played by the adults; their kids also participate. All over old Dubai’s neighbourhoods cricket is played not merely as a profane pastime, but as a sacred ritual.
This is Dubai. But in Beirut as well, where there are many workers from South Asia, cricket has become part of life in the city. Growing up, I remember how young guys from India and Bangladesh were playing cricket in one of the open spaces next to the neighbourhood in Msaytbeh where I lived. They were playing there for many years, until they moved their game to another place.
The game has spread to other parts of Beirut too. During weekends you can see empty parking spaces in Verdun, not far from Hamra Street, being transformed by young players to grounds for their beloved cricket.
Here in Deira – the heart of Dubai – everything is more sincere. The movements, the sun – and the cries of joy, carried to the skies by the city’s cricket players.
This story was translated from Arabic by Jenny Gustafsson and first appeared on Hanibaael.