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Serbian Street20 cricket seeks to create safer environment for young Serbians

Earlier this month, Cricket for Change (C4C), were invited to Serbia by ICC-Europe to introduce the concept and positive power of ‘Street20’ cricket. In partnership with the Serbian Cricket Federation (SCF) and TransConflict Serbia, C4C organized a training and demonstration programme and with the help of members of the Serbian national cricket team got the inaugural Serbian Street20 cricket tournament up and running in the main square in the town of, Bujanovac.

Under the charismatic leadership of Vladimir Ninkovic, the SCF (all volunteers) have created a Serbian Cricket League, a national team and have begun meeting with schools to get cricket into the schools either in school time or as an after school club. The trip not only helps the SCF with the development of the game as whole but perhaps more importantly shows how ‘Street20’ can provide an important opportunity to transcend inter-ethnic divisions, strengthening their language, social and leadership skills in areas of the country where there are issues of conflict amongst different ethnic communities (in this case, young Roma gypsies from Albania).

The trip was based around a visit to the town of Bujanovac, 4 hours or so away from Belgrade and a mere 2km from Kosovo.  As usual, C4C turned up and without saying a word set up a cricket pitch and started a game of ‘Street20’ in the middle of what seemed to be a High Street , starting with 15 young players which within an hour became 30 in number!

The SCF volunteers were fantastic hosts and also great with young people which made the ‘Street20’ training and playing both fun and impactful.

The Ambassador for the UK in Serbia, Michael Davenport, was also present as well as UNICEF officials, as Bujanovac is deemed a very important town in the area as it links the all the different religious communities together.

Andy Sellins, C4C CEO, said that C4C were delighted to be asked to contribute to the great work being undertaken by the Serbian Cricket Federation and their partners with marginalized young people and their communities, “We understand the power of cricket to bring young people together in a neutral and safe environment and this is exactly what we saw taking place during our recent visit. We are keen to work closely with the Serbian Cricket Federation and the International Cricket Council to develop a programme across the region and help create safer environments for many more young people”.

At the end of a busy day in Bujanovac, everyone was still buzzing with the events of the day and excited discussions about the way forward with ‘Street20’ in Serbia were already underway. The C4C team had a long drive back but a stop off at a wonderful Serbian restaurant helped restore the excitement. Thanks to donations of equipment, it is hoped that ‘Street20’ cricket will become a regular part of life in south Serbia, with plans in-place for volunteers from the Serbia Cricket Federation to travel to the UK in the upcoming months the charity will look to extend the same level of wonderful hospitality as they showed to C4C.

C4C, TransConflict and the Serbian Cricket Federation would like to thank the British Embassy in Belgrade, PBILD, UNICEF, ICC-Europe, Centre for Tolerance and Integration of Southern Serbia, and the municipality of Bujanovac for their generous support and all are looking forward to fun and life changing partnerships. For more information about cricket in Serbia, click here