Photo by Lee Woolcock
Robert Masih Nahar
Vice-president and director of Cricket Catalunya, Robert Masih Nahar, discusses the future of the sport in Spain:
I am originally from Punjab but I lived and worked in different parts of India. I didn’t plan to come to Barcelona; I was on my way back to India from Mexico a few years ago, stopped off to see my parents in Italy, stayed there for a couple of years and then in January 2005, somehow ended up here.
I am self-employed, directing an event management company in Barcelona and also giving time to support and promote cricket in Catalunya and the rest of Spain. I represent Catalunya with both Cricket Spain and ICC-Europe.
I started playing cricket as soon as I arrived. I’ve played since I was really young—in India, everyone has played some cricket somewhere. I was living near Plaça de Sants and we used to go to the Parc de l’Espanya Industrial. We were usually disturbed by people, or disturbing them, and many times we were stopped from playing by the police. I started looking for another space, and through that, I met people from other clubs and people who wanted to play cricket.
Before I registered my club with the sports council of the Generalitat de Catalunya, there were three clubs in Barcelona. I was able to find the ground we now use, in Montjuïc, and we then organised Catalunya’s first official cricket tournament with the help of the Generalitat’s Sports Department.
Cricket has been played here since the Nineties, but until the official tournament, most clubs played with a soft ball, a tennis ball. They had friendly matches, but no official games. I went out to villages and towns around Catalunya and motivated them to register their clubs so they could take part in the official tournament. There are now 30 clubs across Catalunya and most of them have stopped playing with tennis balls.
Cricket is definitely getting more popular here. Before I set up the association Unió Esportiva Catalana de Clubs de Cricket, there wasn’t that much interest, but slowly, slowly people started to contact us to say they would like to come and play. The Catalan Cricket Team was set up in 2007 and the association grew out of that.
We promote the sport quite heavily and are focused on getting Spanish and Catalan people playing. Over the last four or five years, we’ve been going into schools and giving workshops to get the local children involved. Once they understand how to hit the ball, they really love it. Now the teachers are also showing an interest in teaching it themselves.
Our team has had a lot of success. We are two times Spanish League champions and Spanish Tournament champs. We’ve beaten Morocco a couple of times in their country. We’ve beaten a couple of Australian clubs, and Irish and English clubs that have come here. All these teams who come to Barcelona, well, they have to lose!
We have reached a very good level in Europe as well. We come at least third or fourth in European tournaments, which is good. I love to play, but these days I don’t because now there are much better players than me in my team! If I wanted to play I could, but not for my own team…
A lot of people think a game of cricket lasts for days. What they don’t realise is that that is only test cricket, and there are only five or six countries involved. That’s a very high level. We play on average for 3.5 hours. Some baseball matches last longer than that.
We start the league in March so there will be matches on Saturdays and Sundays. There are 24 clubs in the Catalunya league taking part.
Now is a very exciting time for cricket here as we have just found a dedicated ground. It is in Santa Susanna [Maresme] and we are hoping to raise enough funds for it to be built to an international standard. It is a dream project: we’ll be able to invite more outside teams to come and play and I think, once it’s built, we will really take off.