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Cricket is the winner as Vatican St Peter’s plays multi-faith XI

Emdad Rahman

Walthamstow Cricket Club hosted a historic game on the 15th anniversary of 9/11.  It saw an East London multi-faith XI comprising of Sikhs, Hindus, Anglicans and Muslims playing against the might of Rome – the Vatican’s very own St Peters CC.

The game was arranged by Essex Cricket after members were approached by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to host the faith unity game against St Peters Cricket Club, Vatican City, as part of the “Festival of Light” Cricket Tour to the UK.

In this exciting Twenty20 encounter the multi-faith team was put into bat after St Peter’s won the toss. With Newham Councillor Mukesh Patel opening, the multi-faith team reached 69, with Labour Councillor, wicketkeeper Forhad Hussain, the top scorer on 25 runs.

A very youthful St Peters’s CC made short work of winning the game against a multi-faith XI who were playing their first ever game together. Redbridge Council Leader Jas Athwal and Shiraz Kothia last played together 30 years ago and were reunited on the pitch for this game.

Despite the loss, Sajid Patel’s men showed plenty of grit and determination with outstanding teenager Jeremy Jebanesan leading the attack like a seasoned veteran alongside Michael Arnold, Gouwtam Rajasegaran and Bradford paceman Abdul Aziz. Thana Sanjeevan and Emdad Rahman were dogged in the field as the multi-faith XI took five very solid wickets.

Father Eamonn O’Higgins LC said, “This is the beauty of life. Today we witness and set an example for the world to see. I pray that this small Union will become the bedrock from which peace spreads throughout our planet.”

Father Sameer Advani added, “Our team was made to work hard for what seemed an easy victory. This is human spirit. Once we come together it is impossible to break that bond. Though the multi-faith team were strangers, they united, bonded and acted as one and this in itself is a lesson for us all.”

Essex and England Captain and legend Graham Gooch presented both teams with their trophies alongside Arfan Akram of Essex Cricket. Gooch said, “Congratulations to both teams for showing today how we can all be as one. I’m grateful we used cricket as a medium today to display such solidarity.”

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Akram added, ‘Today has been a great day to showcase the best – how our various faiths came together to play the game we love. This is a great example of wonderful engagement and celebration of our diverse community in East London. Cricket is a unifying factor and the fact that we have displayed so much togetherness is something we must take inspiration from as a community.”

Councillor Mukesh Patel added, “I think it’s great that we have used players with different abilities and not just gone for elite athletes. That’s not the point in a game like this and I believe we have set a tremendous example of how we can all live in harmony. On this point, I would like to wish our Muslim brothers and sisters Eid Mubarak.”

Redbridge Council Leader Jas Athwal soldiered on despite suffering a muscle strain in the field. “I thinks this is a great initiative and in future I would love to have all neighbouring boroughs involved in a game like this and ensure our esteemed visitors are given civic receptions and a platform to inspire our communities. Lastly, Eid Mubarak greetings from me for every Muslim who is celebrating this special festival tomorrow,” he said.

Also present at the game were Dan Feist from Essex County Cricket Club and Greater London Assembly Member Councillor Unmesh Desai.

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The Multi-faith XI Captain Sajid Patel concluded, “It has been a fantastic celebration today and a great example of communities uniting. The enjoyment factor has been 11 out of 10! I would like to congratulate both teams on being such tremendous ambassadors throughout. I pray that we can use the influence of all 22 of these onfield giants to spread unity and togetherness. Our impact will be global and I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved here today. The message from a game like this should be spread widely. By doing so we strengthen our bonds and deter those who seek to divide us.”

Multi faith XI team versus Vatican City St Peter’s CC
Sajid Patel (captain)
Mukesh Patel
Jas Athwal
Sheraz Kothia
Forhad Hussain
Abdul Aziz
Jeremy Jebanesan
Michael Arnold
Gouwtam Rajasegaran
Thana Sanjeevan
Emdad Rahman

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