Though cricket originated in the United Kingdom and has become hugely popular in many former British colonies, it still doesn’t have a big following in Hong Kong.
Despite the lack of popular appeal among locals, the Hong Kong cricket team has become quite competitive. During the 2013/14 season, the Hong Kong team was the third runner-up in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon. It also topped as one of the six in teams in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier 2013 and qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 2014 in Bangladesh.
Irfan Ahmed, aged 25, is an all-rounder in the Hong Kong men’s cricket squad.
He has been serving in the team since 2005. Back then he was only 15 and the youngest cricketer in Hong Kong history.
“I served in the Hong Kong men’s team because I play cricket well,” says Ahmed.
Ahmed is a talented and devoted cricketer. Last year he was awarded the HKCA Dermot Reeve Medal that recognizes outstanding performance.
Before joining the Hong Kong team and playing international professional games, Ahmed had received cricket training and gained experience in a schools’ team and by playing local junior games.
Surprisingly though, Ahmed did not learn cricket in his birthplace — Pakistan — because he was raised in Hong Kong.
Ahmed’s grandfather is a Pakistani working as a policeman in Hong Kong, while his grandmother is a Hong Kong Chinese. Ahmed’s father was born and raised in Hong Kong but later went to Pakistan when he was 15 years old and married Ahmed’s mother.
It was in fact Ahmed’s grandfather’s idea to move back to Hong Kong as he believed that Hong Kong is a better place than Pakistan for his grandchildren’s education.
“My father looks like a Chinese and so do many of my relatives,” said Ahmed. “During the family gatherings, we speak Cantonese, English and Urdu.”
Ahmed’s elder brother, Nadeem Ahmed, also serves in the Hong Kong cricket team, but he is mainly a bowler.
Asked who among the brothers is a better player, Ahmed replied with a laugh: “We play different roles in the game. He does bowl very well.”
Unlike other traditional families where arranged marriage is still popular in practice, Ahmed’s father is very open-minded and has said that such marriages might not work out.
Hence, Ahmed is allowed to find his own soulmate. However, he joked that he couldn’t make up his mind among his various “girl friends” — a Chinese, a Spanish, an Indian, and an American.
We are not sure if he was serious or joking.
Speaking of his self-identity, Ahmed says he considers himself a Hongkonger.
“I don’t see myself different from the Hong Kong people,” he says.
“Playing in the international games for years, I did have received invitations from other national teams. But I rejected them all because I love Hong Kong and I want to be a good example to my young teammates.”
Right now Ahmed and his teammates are preparing for the coming ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier 2015. Hong Kong is going to play against Jersey in the first match on July 11 in Northern Ireland.
“We aim to win the qualifier and continue our fight in the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 in India,” said Ahmed.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 10.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
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