Montreal's growing cricket league is about more than a love of the game
Newcomers gain a social network through association based in Park Ex
The cricket field in Jarry Park isn't just a spot to play one of the world's most popular sports.
"This is a place, especially for people new to Quebec, to socialize and network," says Mehboob Rehman, president of the Montreal Cricket Association.
Rehman came to Montreal from Pakistan when he was 14 years old, and has seen how the park's dedicated cricket field became a much-needed social space for fans of the sport.
"I've seen people get jobs in this league and help each other integrate into this province," he says.
The association was created 25 years ago by enthusiasts wanting to play on a field in their own community, as part of a competitive league. It's based in Montreal's Parc-Extension neighbourhood with many players living nearby, but others come from all over the island and beyond, including Laval.
Abuz Khalid, 22, is one of those people who found not only friends but employment opportunities playing cricket. He came to Canada from Pakistan in 2017 to stay with his aunt and uncle, and is now a permanent resident.
When Khalid arrived, it was winter and he had no idea that people in Montreal played his favourite sport. He learned about the league from a family friend and has played competitively ever since.
"I had no friends for two to three months when I first got here, and now almost all my friends are from cricket," says Kahlid. Through his friends in the league, he also found work as a lab technician to support himself while he's in school.
Members are predominantly people who came to Quebec from South Asia, but there are a number of people whose origins range from New Zealand to Jamaica.
And the league is growing. In its first full season since the start of the pandemic, they've added seven teams for a total of 22.
Rehman has been working with the borough during his tenure as president to allow everyone who wants to play cricket in a competitive league to have access. But with only two fields in the area, he says more needs to be done.
He wants a sports policy for cricket within Villeray—Saint-Michel—Parc-Extension, with facilities and funding provided by both the borough and the city.
"It's just a very slow process," Rehman says, adding that he'll keep working with the city and borough to make the project happen.
He also encourages other members and leaders within the association to familiarize themselves with how municipal government works, so they can be more visible to the administration.
The season kicked off last weekend at Jarry Park, and continues through the summer.