Liverpool Cricket Club are offering free winter coaching to Afghan school children who have moved to Merseyside. The cricket season in the UK ended a couple of months ago, but training continues to help the refugees settle in Merseyside.

The Aigburth based club started running taster sessions in June, and they will continue indoors throughout the winter for the 15 refugee children from St. Nicholas Academy, in Garston, South Liverpool, who’ve now joined the club’s junior ranks.

The Summer session was ran by the club’s Afghani overseas player Zohaib Zamankhail, alongside Ormskirk’s Afghanistan recruit Zahir Shehzad.

This is the brainchild of Liverpool CC’s Chairman of Cricket, Jeremy Clein: “We contracted Zohaib to be our overseas player. I knew Liverpool had welcomed a lot of refugees to the city, so I thought wouldn’t it be good if we could put on a taster day for some of the children, and also help to make our professional feel a bit more at home.”

Afghani refugees from St. Nicholas Academy with Liverpool CC pro Zohaib Zamankhail- taken with permission from Liverpool CC Twitter

“My brother is a city councillor for the area, so I asked him to get in touch with the people at the council who dealt with the refugees coming in. So between him, the council and me, we set up a day.”

Liverpool Cricket Club has fully subsidised the 15 places in the junior squads for the refugees, and they’ve been provided with all the club’s kit. They have numbers across the age groups, ranging from under-11’s to under 18’s. Some of the youngsters were involved with the senior teams in the summer. “We had a couple of the older boys who played for the third team. One of them, on his debut, took 7-25. He didn’t know where he was landing the ball, but every now and then there was a wicket-taking ball,” said Clein.

Over the summer, cricket fans were introduced to another refugee from Afghanistan Adnan Miahkel. He appeared on Freddie Flintoff’s show ‘Field of Dreams’, a TV reality show about giving kids the chance to play cricket. Adnan turned up to one of the first training sessions and immediately stood out with his  natural talent, despite never having played. He learned to play by watching TV. It’s stories like this that add extra inspiration, for the LCC Chairman: “They love sport, they love their cricket, so that was the idea. I think they’re living in a hotel in Speke, they don’t have much of a life. It just gives them a bit of a release.”

“Some of them won’t have had the chance to play cricket before, but you could tell that some of them had this natural ability. If we can develop that, and benefit our senior teams in years to come, and then maybe they can take it further, that would be a lovely feather in our cap.”

Liverpool CC first refugee training session- taken with permission from the Liverpool CC Twitter

53-year-old Clein knows only too well the struggles young refugees have gone through and how much being able to play cricket can help boost moral. “Just imagine you were placed thousands of miles away from your home country, which is war-torn, and you don’t know anyone. The best way of helping them is to integrate them into the community, and playing sport is one of the best ways. Everyone can relate to sport. It doesn’t matter how good you are.”

He added: “You only had to see the smiles on their faces when they saw Zohaib, it was really touching. To know what they have gone through, you can’t help but feel touched by seeing their enjoyment.”

Clein says he has heard of stories of the community coming together to help out, including a woman who has time consuming work at the A&E department at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

The Chairman of Cricket said that, as far as he’s aware, they’re the only club in the area aiding and running sessions for the refugee children. Now that a new school year is in full swing, training numbers are up.

The sessions aren’t without their hurdles, mainly the language barrier. But Clein says the children’s parents are often on hand to help out. The cricket club are looking to continue helping and providing more free sessions.