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Ministers on this page who have left the government

Between 3 October 2014 and 27 July 2017 he was Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport.

Ministers on this page who have left the government

Between 3 October 2014 and 27 July 2017 he was Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport.

Speech by Swedish Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport at the opening of Cricket EM in Stockholm

Published

Opening speech by Swedish Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport at the opening of Cricket EM in Stockholm, August 16th, 2016.

Check against delivery.

Thank you.

Good evening everyone, and welcome to our city hall, to Stockholm and to Sweden.

I must confess, I feel a little self-conscious in speaking to you this evening about cricket. I know nothing like as much about it as most of you do.

Of course, like almost everyone, I always knew of cricket. Iconic. Baffling. A sport that stops for tea?

And it doesn't get much better when you learn more. What other team sport could so isolate each player again and again in facing a bowler, a very hard ball that is bounced at you and 10 fielders, and 2 umpires, all ready to punish your smallest mistake?

And this is fun. Learning English you learn of being bowled a googly, being on a sticky wicket, knocked for six, caught out. And stumped.

A sport – or life? Cricket , of course, as you all know, is all of this – and more.

All sport reflects and embodies deep values that are common to us all. About talent, competing, and winning; yes. But also about determination and discipline, of courage, patience, leadership, and teamwork. And fair play.

No other sport, worldwide, is such a by-word for 'doing the right thing' as cricket. Not that this always happens, of course.

And reading up on the history of cricket one finds that having taken the game from village children, English gentlemen got heavily into betting, ball tampering, and match-fixing hundreds of years ago.

Like when the legendary WC Grace was bowled for a duck – why is it called that? – he simply replaced the bails and said to the bowler

'They've come to watch me bat. Not you bowl.'

The whole point of sport – and cricket above all – is that it's supposed to be all about the best in us. Hence the reactions, the disgust, and the destroyed reputations, for the players, at least, at cheating.

And the heroism, and hero – and heroine - worship when it goes, and is done, right. But sport also has wider and greater implications - and messages. Not only in keeping values – but also in driving them on.

And cricket, for what it represents, highlights this as no other sport.

It was Dolly's – Basil D'Oliviera's - stand in '68 for other so-called Coloureds in his home South Africa that led directly to the sports boycotts that showed what was so wrong and hastened the fall of apartheid.

He had the politicians, press and public behind him, as well as against him.It remained his call. And they couldn't buy him off.

Women may have played their first cricket match, I believe, in 1745, but it took until the 20th century for the pace - and their place - to pick up. From Australia's first test match in 1934 to the national teams of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh today is a tribute to the determination of the players, and to the work of those running the game who believe in fair play.

And I have heard in Ireland – the male players are such gentlemen that they graciously allowed the women's national team to go first, and play Ireland's first One Day International 19 years before them.

Of course with change, it is often said that one must think global, and act local.

And the great new change in cricket, is in the most unlikely places, like here in Sweden, or in Israel before, the global game is becoming local and the local global as never before.

We are being gifted this great game, this great tradition, by our new citizens.

Like in Germany.

Where I have heard that the ambition is that cricket will add to the national tradition in soccer by apparently becoming another game played by 2 sides and won by Germans.

Cricket is often called a slow game. But as you will find out, it's a game that is spreading fast in Sweden. Astonishingly fast.

Take my own home town of Västerås, some 100 km west of here. Founded by the Vikings 1000 years ago it now has a population of just over 150,000 people.

There was no cricket there when I was born. In my childhood, cricket was as distant – and exotic – as the Taj Mahal. Then, in 2014, a group of people, from, or with parents from, India and Pakistan, Australia and Afghanistan got together to found Västerås Cricket Club.

So this small Swedish city now has cricket. I was told that for the VCC 20/14 was a learning season. In teamwork between passionate cricketers. And in the vital Swedish skills – of running committees, and in filling in forms correctly. They even got to play too.

Word spread. New players turned up. Last year, the municipality of Västerås helped set up a cricket ground. Training got better. And the VCC reached the 20/15 national senior quarter-finals.

*****

2015 was also the year of the great refugee crisis. Of my country wanting to help. Unlike, I must say, too many others. Locally, in Västerås, the call went out to help with this 21st century, European equivalent of America's 'huddled masses'. For families. For kids. For games. For sport.

To help them feel involved, and part of something bigger. At the VCC, cricket was well placed. Their languages were Farsi and Urdu, as well as Swedish and English. The cultures and understanding too.

And above all, in what brings people together: Shared rules. A common way of competing. And a national tradition.

Some 20 newcomers came, every week. And what I think we all need to remember – as we were all kids once – is that many of these young people were very, very, far from home. And alone.

Last year, in 20/15, the number of unaccompanied children who managed to reach Sweden's borders, so far North was over 35,000. So perhaps the most moving and important thing I heard from a VCC trainer was - and I quote:

'When they come to the training or to a match, when they grasp a cricket ball or a bat, you can see in their eyes that it all falls away. And that here & now is all about cricket '

This, I understand, is, and has always been, cricket.

This is something all of you here who have come to Sweden to play and compete know, understand, and represent. Both as national teams, and as individuals.

So it is a very real pleasure for me – and a very real privilege – to welcome you to Sweden, and to thank you all, and all those volunteers, and unseen figures not here this evening- who made your being here possible.

Most of all, I'd like to thank you for helping inspire and encourage any girl or boy, young man or woman - wherever they are from, and who feel they should belong – to play cricket. And to be part of showing the world a new national, and international face.

In all of this as individuals, as teams and as nations. I wish you all the very best.

Thank you.

Ministers on this page who have left the government

Between 3 October 2014 and 27 July 2017 he was Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport.

Ministers on this page who have left the government

Between 3 October 2014 and 27 July 2017 he was Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport.