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Spain cricket team victory marred by racist slurs

The Local Spain
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Spain cricket team victory marred by racist slurs
Most of Spain's national cricket team players are of Asian origin, but all of them having either Spanish nationality or long-term residency. Screengrab: Europe Cricket

The Spanish cricket team’s winning streak at the European Championships has been tarnished by racist comments on social media focusing on the fact that many of the players are of Asian origin. 

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Yes, Spain has a national cricket team! And that’s not all, they’re proving to be a force to be reckoned with on the continent, having won five matches at the European Cricket Championship being played in Málaga. 

Unfortunately, their latest victory against France is making headlines across Spain for the wrong reasons.

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Footage showing the players standing for Spain’s national anthem before the match, many with their hands on their chests, has gone viral on X (formerly Twitter), with trolls questioning the ethnicity and ‘Spanishness’ of the Spanish cricketers.

“I know it’s Spain because of the national anthem”, “multiculturalism is society’s cancer”, “you’ve got the video wrong, it’s the Pakistani national team” and “strange-looking Spaniards” are just some of the derogatory comments.

“Shameful, in a few years there won’t be any Spaniards representing Spain in sport,” one user boldly claimed.

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Of the 14 players that appear on the video, 11 are of Pakistani origin and three others are either South African, British or half Spanish and British. Many of them have acquired Spanish citizenship through residency or family, and not as a quick means of ‘buying’ foreign players by quickly giving them nationality. Others are long-term residents in Spain.

"Spain is our country, I have been here longer than in Pakistan and we play for the Spanish National Team with all our energy ."Muhammad Atif, a 23 years old who’s lived in Barcelona for 15 years, told Spanish sports publication Relevo. 

“We’re not Spanish? That’s not what other teams we play in tournaments tell us. They know we speak Spanish and that we are Spanish,” teammate Babar Khan, a Spanish national who’s been in Spain since he left Pakistan when he was 14, added.

Spain’s Australian coach Corey Rutgers took to X to stress “These men love Spain, speak the Spanish language and love the country…we should celebrate them representing España! @Cricket_Espana Plenty of hard work goes into this. I am very proud of the team’s achievement”. 

In Spain, cricket was recognised as a sport in 2013 and now has about 1,400 licences. 

However, it's still not professional as it has no federation, with the closest thing being the Cricket España association that was created in 1992.

That means that Spain’s national cricketers aren’t paid and play just for passion. Only Daniel Doyle-Calle, a South African-born cricketer who has Spanish nationality through his mother, makes a living from the sport.

"You are representing your country, some players have been fired from their jobs and on top of that they criticise you," captain Christian Muñoz Mills told Relevo about the fact that some of Spain’s cricketers have struggled to combine work and matches into their schedule.

“It makes us angry that this gets spoken about after what we’ve achieved, but we know those commenting aren’t smart, and we’re sticking to the positive, we know that there are plenty of people supporting us”. 

There are approximately 6.5 million foreigners residing in Spain and in 2021 a third of all babies born in the country had either a foreign mother or father, or both. 

READ ALSO: Older and more diverse - What Spain's population will be like in 50 years

Spain is therefore becoming more multicultural whether a small but noisy sector of the population wants it or not, and when it comes to the integration of a previously unknown sport  into Spanish society, who better than the foreigners who know it better and love it most?

As another example of this taking place in sport, Spain’s national rugby side is made up largely of French-Spanish dual nationals who grew up in France, which makes sense given the fact that France is a big rugby nation with over 150 years of expertise. 

But don’t expect a video of the Spanish rugby side to go viral in the negative sense due to the distinct ‘Frenchness’ of its squad.

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