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The Bradford Women Who Found Independence Through Cricket

Whether from the world of science, fashion or politics we love hearing stories of young Muslims breaking stereotypes in their craft of choice. That’s why we were extremely interested to hear that a group of girls from Bradford, who are finding independence playing cricket, are featuring in an upcoming BBC documentary.

The documentary tracks the reunion of the girls’ cricket team, which was formed four years ago whilst the girls were attending the Carlton Bolling college, as they come together for one last tournament. The film itself focuses less on the cricket and more on the teenagers themselves; friendships and fun, as well as the pressures put on them by family expectation.

“We are rebels within our community. We do what Asian girls from Bradford are not supposed to do – and we are good at it” says Zainab, one of the members of the team. Having now won a number of tournaments, it is interesting to note that prior to the formation of the cricket team the girls’ only experience of the sport was watching matches on TV with their fathers and their brothers.

The success they have found playing the sport has not come without challenges. The girls have encountered discrimination a number of times including problems where other teams have refused to shake hands with them or have simply laughed at them. However, the girl’s team have used this to spur them on as opposed to putting them down. “Because I wear a scarf and cover my arms, people regard me as terrorist. So, when I play, I’m not just proving something to myself, I’m proving something to everybody else who believes that” says Mariyah, whose cricketing hero is Joe Root.

These challenges are further highlighted throughout the documentary as the girls discuss the complexity of growing up as a young Muslims woman in Britain and the pressures put on them by their families as well as the wider community. This is very well represented by Zainab who, due to her father’s strictness, explains how cricket is the only thing which allows her the freedom to leave the home. “If I did not have cricket, I don’t think I would have much of a chance to leave the house at all. Cricket gives me that independence, it gives me that freedom and it allows me to get out and be myself for a bit”.

Despite the challenges they have faced, it is clear to see throughout the documentary that the girls are resilient. One of the girls, Jasmin, chose family over her career as she chose to turn down a sports scholarship to a top US university in order to care for her mother, who was seriously injured in a car accident whilst on holiday in Bangladesh. “I chose my mother and family over the scholarship. For me, family is right at the top.”

So, what’s next in store for the girls after their last tournament? Well, their futures look bright and varied including studying medicine, art and business studies. For us at Ummahsonic, we love the fact that this story showcases how sport has helped these young women overcome adversity and encouraged them to further achievements.

‘Bats, Balls and Bradford Girls’ is broadcast on BBC Three on Tuesday the 8th of January (and you can re-watch the awesome film Ummahsonic made with the girls last year, here!)

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