Lebanon migrant workers find joy in cricket - GulfToday

Lebanon migrant workers find joy in cricket


Migrants living in Lebanon compete in a cricket match held at a parking lot in Beirut. AFP

In a Beirut car park, migrant workers cheer as their teams face off in a cricket tournament, a moment of respite in crisis-hit Lebanon, where working conditions are often tough.

“Sunday we are so happy... We eat together, we laugh together,” said cricketer Pradeepa Silva, a 42-year-old Sri Lankan, as she and her teammates prepared coconut rice and other traditional food nearby to share.

“Work is very tiring” and workers are stressed and worried, said Silva, who is employed as a housemaid six days a week and pays for her daughter’s university studies back home.

Every Sunday, players mainly from Sri Lanka but also from the Philippines, India and Pakistan gather in Beirut’s Ashrafieh neighbourhood to play cricket — a little-known sport in Lebanon. Migrant workers are employed under Lebanon’s “kafala” sponsorship system.

On May 19, several hundred people gathered for a tournament that also brought together traditional food stalls, a DJ playing Bollywood hits and other music, teams from the British and Sri Lankan embassies and young Syrian refugee players.

LEbanon-migrant-cricket Iris Sagario plays a shot during a cricket match on a street in Beirut. AFP

Iris Sagario from the Philippines ran onto the field for the Roaring Lions women’s team, wearing an orange and blue shirt with her name printed on the back.
“I love cricket,” said the 43-year-old, who works as a housekeeper. “I’m very excited to play every Sunday” — her only day off.

After winning their match, Sagario’s team broke out into cheers, hugging and high-fiving each other. They went on to take the women’s trophy.

More than 160,000 migrants from 84 nationalities were in Lebanon last year, according to a report from the International Organisation for Migration.

With daily bombardment in south Lebanon as Hizbollah and the Israeli army clash amid tensions over the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza, some foreign embassies have advised their nationals to leave the country.

cricket-Lebanon-migrant Migrant workers celebrate during a cricket match in Beirut. AFP

“At first I was worried” but “my sir (employer) assured me that all is good,” said Sagario, who was also in Lebanon in 2006, when Israel and Hizbollah last went to war.

“I’m choosing to stay because... I don’t know what I’ll do if I go back to the Philippines. I want to give financial (help) to my family,” she said.

Curious passersby sometimes peered over a tumbledown stone wall to watch the matches.

Agence France-Presse

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