Keyano College introduces 1st cricket team
'There's so much talent in this town,' says coach Irfan Bangash
The introduction of a cricket team to the slate of athletic programs at Keyano College is expected to draw more international students to the school.
Irfan Bangash is coaching the Keyano Huskies cricket squad in its inaugural season. Bangash is the president of the Fort McMurray Cricket Association, and has been coaching the sport in the community since 2013.
"There's so much talent in this town," said Bangash, adding that players from the local league have already joined Keyano's new team.
In addition to homegrown talent, the program is also attracting interest from athletes from across the world, including Trinidad, Nepal, Jamaica, and Pakistan.
Bangash said more international students will be coming to Keyano next semester to play cricket.
"This is an example," said Bangash. "Every school in Canada, if they want to attract international students, bring cricket."
Keyano is offering a scholarship for cricket players, which Bangash said is a big motivator for students like Aaron Johnson.
The 28-year-old has been playing cricket semi-professionally across the world for years, and now he's settled in Fort McMurray.
"I'm pretty sure I'll offer a lot to the college, but in return I think I'll be getting equal returns. I think it's a good decision, not only for me, but anyone who is looking to play cricket and get an education."
Johnson said cricket players typically stop playing professionally when they are around 35 years old. When he reaches that age, he wants to have an education to fall back on. He says Keyano is offering him that opportunity.
"You can either love cricket or hate cricket. And unfortunately, I love cricket."
The players have varying levels of experience, including some who have never played cricket before and have only watched clips on YouTube.
Rachel Perez, 19, moved from the Philippines to Fort McMurray one year ago for school. This year she decided to join a varsity team, despite never having played the sport. She said she wanted to use it as a way to meet people.
"To be honest, I'm new here, I'm just new in Keyano, but I've seen cricket back home. I've just watched some clips on YouTube."
She's hoping the team will help her meet people and get comfortable on campus.
"I would love to invite other people and encourage them to try the sport," said Perez.
Bangash said they plan on facing SAIT this year, and he wants to host a cricket tournament.