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Refugees Take Northern French Town To Cricket Glory

On a rugby field overlooked by a towering cathedral, a group of young refugees has introduced a small northern French town to the beautiful game of… cricket.

Saint-Omer lies 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of the Channel port of Calais, the main launchpad for attempts by migrants to smuggle themselves into England.

As in many western European towns and cities, the integration of migrants is creating new challenges.

But thanks to its new arrivals, Saint-Omer has become a rare centre of cricketing excellence in a country where football and rugby dominate.

The town broke new ground in September when a group of Afghan and Pakistani refugees wearing the colours of the Saint-Omer Cricket Club Stars (Soccs) brought home the regional Hauts-de-France cricket title.

“I didn t know people played cricket in France!” said Ataullah Otmankhil, a devotee of the sport from northern Afghanistan with short, gelled hair and a trim beard.

When the athletic 21-year-old set out from his war-torn country for Europe “on foot, by train, truck, car, you name it”, his heart was set on reaching England.

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