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'Spaniards can't believe cricket lasts five days'

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'Spaniards can't believe cricket lasts five days'
Playing with a straight bat: David Stirton says Madrid is full of green areas for sports lovers.
17:25 CEST+02:00
In this week's My Spain we talk to Madrid-based sports enthusiast David Stirton about where to keep fit in the capital, his role as Government Liaison Officer for Cricket España and the best curry restaurant in town.

So David, tell us a bit about yourself. How did you end up in Spain?

I’m originally from just outside Glasgow but I've been living in Madrid for about 23 years now.

I moved over just after finishing my Politics degree when the opportunity to teach English here in Spain came up.

I’m now a freelance translator and interpreter specializing in sports and disability. In fact, I’ll be acting as an interpreter for the UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday!

I've got a Spanish wife and a 17-year-old son, who’s completely bilingual in Spanish and English.

Have you lived in different parts of the capital?

No, I've always lived in the same 'barrio', Carabanchel, but I've moved home three times.

It has a reputation among Madrileños for being a bit rough because of its working class background and because the city’s biggest prison used to be there.

But it’s a great neighbourhood, very close to the city centre and it's got great transport links with the rest of Madrid.

We live a stone’s throw away from the Vicente Calderón, Atlético de Madrid’s football stadium.

I’m a season ticket holder so it’s great to live nearby, and in the summer we listen to all the big concerts they hold in the stadium for free from our place!

So do you enjoy playing football as much as you enjoy watching it?

I love sport in general and Madrid has plenty to offer in terms of facilities and green areas in which to keep fit.

They recently revamped a 10km-long park along the banks of the Manzanares River, again very close to my place.

It’s called Madrid Rio and there are all kinds of sports and recreational facilities there.

I also enjoy jogging in the Casa de Campo, Madrid’s biggest park.

So what sport are you most actively involved in?

Cricket, believe it or not.

I’m captain for Madrid Cricket’s second team and Cricket España’s Government Liaison Officer.

Madrid Cricket is the oldest team in the whole of Spain, established back in 1975.

Is cricket big in Spain?

Bigger than you may think. There are at least 55 official clubs in Spain and many more that still have to be officially registered.

These teams play in four regional leagues in the Canaries, Catalonia, Southern Spain and East/Central Spain.

Madrid Cricket has between 45 and 50 fully paid up members, with a bigger turnover of around 80 to 90 people taking part throughout the year.

So what are your goals as Government Liaison Officer for Cricket España?

We’re aiming to get cricket recognized as an official sport in Spain but it's a long and tedious process.

Once we have 65 registered clubs across the country we’ll be able to set up the first Spanish Cricket Federation and get the funding that goes with it.

In our case for example, we already have bowling machines, bats, nets but we're having to play on an artificial wicket on a rugby pitch.

So how are you going about promoting cricket in Madrid?

Well, we're holding an Open Day in Lavapiés neighbourhood in Madrid this Saturday called  Street20 Cricket en la Calle (Cricket in the street).

Anyone can come along, play a match, learn the rules or just soak up the atmosphere.

Lavapiés is just a great place to visit anyway.  It's my favourite Madrid neighbourhood, it's so cosmopolitan and full of life.

There's a great Indian restaurant called Moharaj and lots of spice stores.

What do the Spanish make of cricket?

Of course some people here are not really sure what cricket is, mistaking it for croquet or polo. They ask us "Where are your horses?"

But the Spanish are big sports lovers, so even though they find the rules a bit complex at first and can't get over the fact that tests go on for five days, they end up enjoying it.

Ninety-five percent of our players come from cricket-playing countries but more and more Spaniards are joining too.

There's actually a team called Variant Cricket Club which is made up entirely of Spanish cricketers.

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