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Women’s cricket is booming in the country of football

In a cement yard in the humble community of Pocos de Kaldas in Minas Gerais, a group of children run at full speed after a ball. But cricket is the ubiquitous football and national match.

The mining town of 170,000 inhabitants became the capital of this game made in the Queen’s country.

Contrary to all predictions, Brazil has become an emerging cricketing power, especially for its national team, which signed the agreement in 2020, becoming the first country to professionalize women before men.

Most of its players have learned to play in one of 63 youth programs run by the Cricket Brazil organization, chaired by former professional player Matt Featherstone, an Englishman who married a Brazilian who came to the country 20 years ago.

“My wife thinks I’m crazy” to teach Brazilians cricket, comedian Featherstone, 51, is still an athlete with a contagious enthusiasm.

His charisma has transformed Poços de Caldas, a coffee town, which Mayor Sergio Azevedo is proud to call “the only city in Brazil where young people play more cricket than football.”

– Samba Rhythm –

Featherstone initially tried to express his love for cricket in a private school, but there he competed in rugby, hockey, sailing and “whatever you can imagine”.

In poor neighborhoods, by contrast, where the option is “football or soccer”, he discovers families willing to welcome new sports.

Unlike England, where cricket is usually a high-society men’s game, “there’s a blank slate for us to do whatever we want,” he says.

Women’s team captain Roberta Moretti remembers the moment of the discovery of cricket on Avery TV.

“I didn’t understand the rules, I just saw that there were a lot of people wearing white, and it lasted a long time,” recalls Avery, 36.

But at the same time, it reminds him of a Brazilian street game known as “bat” or “taco”.

The story goes that in the 19th century, the game was invented by Brazilian slaves with broom sticks and bottles after seeing the British build a cricket railway.

Cricket Brazil’s enthusiasm and openness finally convinces Avery.

“The way it was applied here for the Brazilians was great, it was a very fun way,” said Avery.

During practice, the Brazilian team likes to play funk and samba before the match and have tea with cucumber sandwiches in the evening.

– Expanded Horizons –

Thanks to projects launched in 2009, Poços de Caldas has more than 5,000 players.

Cricket Brazil wants to reach 30,000 other cities.

Some players have achieved international fame, such as Laura Cardoso, who, at just 16 years old, lost five opponents in the last six launches against Canada during World Cup qualifiers.

The T20 women’s international tournament has never achieved such a feat.

New from the professional experience in Dubai, Cardoso could become one of the best in the world, Featherstone said. But the young prodigy, now 17, takes it easy.

“Damn, what have I done to deserve to be here?”, He says with a smile, near the team’s training center, a grant from the municipal government.

The Brazilian women’s team, currently 28th in the T20 International rankings, wants more after four wins in the last five South American Championships where only a few countries participate.

Successfully, the money came from the International Cricket Council and sponsors.

Cricket Brazil’s annual budget has increased from about $ 5,000 a decade ago to $ 350,000, allowing the company to launch a coaching program and send young people to university.

The lives of some players, such as 20-year-old Lindsay Mariano, have changed.

“I didn’t have a passport before the game,” he said, taking a break from training for the Brazil team’s next tour of Africa, but now “I’ve traveled a lot for cricket.”

jhb / mls / app / mvv

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