Greece forges international cricket partnerships
Sun, Jun 19, 2011 4:22 PM
Cricket in Greece continues to develop at a great rate in some respects due to the great links and partnerships with full member countries that help to grow the game in the South of Europe.
Having been a member of the International Cricket Council since 1995, Greece has been successful at many European tournaments with great hope for them going into the ICC European Division 2 Championship in Belgium this month. As hosts, they won the ICC European Division 3 Championship in 1999 and ICC European Division 5 Championship in 2009 with five straight wins. However, at the ICC European Division 2 Championships in 2006 they were disqualified after fielding ineligible players and dropped down three divisions.
The development of cricket in Greece has been impressive, in 1999 the Corfiot education system allowed kwik cricket to be taught in primary schools as a traditional sport of Corfu. This success, which the Hellenic Cricket Federation had sought for years, led to many young players being fed into local clubs.
More recently, the Hellenic Cricket Federation has taken steps to promote the game throughout Greece. There are now teams either fully functioning or in the process of being set up in Athens, Ioannina, Igoumenitsa and on the islands of Chios and Zakinthos with more planned for other Greek cities as well.
With the growth of the game nationally, Greece also went searching for cricketing partnerships further afield to try and improve the sport. A linking partnership with the Australian Hellenic Cricket Federation (AHCF) was a big step, as they made their first visit to Corfu last year.
The whole tour was set around promoting the game, the team from the AHCF played four matches against local teams and one against the national side, even though the visitors came out on top in all, the real progress that was made were the initiatives that came through the visit.
One of the main programmes is to allow the game to be embedded in the schools' curriculum around all the Ionian islands and eventually into Greek schools, following the lead from Corfu. ICC Regional Development Manager, Richard Holdsworth was thrilled by the prospect, "It's a step that can begin to change the culture of the society. There's been a whole host of initiatives - a lot which have been in the pipeline, but many have been initiated by the tour."
Political backing is of great importance in order to get cricket into the education system. Angela Gerekou, the Member of the Greek Parliament for Corfu who has supported the game in Greece for some time says, "With tours like these we open a new road to develop cricket not only in the base here, but all over Greece.
"We have to educate and learn and give cricket the place it deserves - and to connect with each other through sport,? says Gerekou. From a cricketing perspective to see all this hard work has paid off as, eight players of the Greece squad for Division 2 are born in Greece.
As well, AHCF invitations have in the past been extended to Pakistan, as Greek cricket tries to extend their partnerships and to develop the game further on an international level, however the basics must still be completed successfully. Playing good cricket and being promoted from the ICC European Division 2 Championship in Belgium, to Division 1 is of key importance.
The eleven teams, who haven't all played each other in the T20 format, have the chance to make their way along the T20 global pathway which gives Associate and Affiliate members a greater and more realistic chance of making a Global qualifier. If Greece does succeed, they no doubt will be able to make many more international cricketing partnerships.