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Sharjah: Back home, India and Pakistan may be refusing to play cricket on each other’s turf. But in the UAE, a cricket championship for diplomats is bringing together officials and employees of eight countries including the two arch-rivals.

Building bridges beyond boundaries is the aim of the Diplomat Cup Cricket Championship, organised by Skyline University College in Sharjah.

With the Indian Consulate in Dubai as the permanent patron, the championship entered its fourth edition this year.

The Cup aims to strengthen cooperation and cultivate relations among dignitaries in the UAE.

Cricket Diplomacy in the UAE Sajila Saseendran, Senior Reporter

The participating consulates this year are from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, South Africa, USA, Afghanistan and new entrant Australia.

The two-day championship began at the cricket ground of the Skyline University College on Friday.

In the morning matches, Pakistan defeated Bangladesh while South Africa won the match against the US.

Diplomats and consular employees ditched their suites and official attires for their country jerseys as they hit the ground.

Their professionalism may not be matching that of the professional cricket players, but the consular teams kept the sporting spirit high both on the field and in the gallery.

For some missions like the US and Australian consulates, players included consular employees originally from India and Pakistan too.

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Officials and employees of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi consulates during a match at the cricket ground of Skyline University College in Sharjah on Friday morning. Image Credit: Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

Probash Lamarong, first secretary and head of Chancery at the Bangladeshi Consulate, told Gulf News the other teams had even agreed to bend rules for allowing entry for the South African team since their consular staff ran short in numbers to form a team.

“They were allowed to add some members from their business council,” he said. “The idea is to have the maximum participation from the diplomatic community.”

Consul General of Pakistan Ahmed Amjad Ali, who was also the captain of his team, batted to victory in the last round despite an injured left foot.

He said the championship gives diplomats the chance to network and make friends. Citing that consul generals of four countries were playing, he said: “This shows the spirit of the game. As we say, cricket is a gentleman’s game. We can bring peace together through cricket. We can bring more friendship and build more relations with this initiative.”

While cheering the team members for their victory in the first match, he promised to give them a day’s holiday from work in rotation if they lift the cup.

Justin McGowan, Australia’s Commissioner General for Expo 2020 Dubai, said it is a great chance for the diplomatic teams to get involved.

“It’s really good spirit… really good atmosphere,” he said.

Syed Mosawwir Abbas Shah, consul, Consular Affairs, at Pakistani Consulate said: “We forget about our official assignments when we come here. We just play as sportsmen and we interact as brothers and friends. So it’s good to be here.”

Mogobo David Magabe, Consul General of South Africa, who is playing in the championship for the third season, said the teams were also looking at introducing soccer and other games in which they can include the female members of the missions as well.

Kamrul Hasan, commercial counsellor, at the Bangladeshi Consulate, who took part for the first time said the event also highlighted the importance of fitness. He said it also helps boost bonding between diplomats and lower level employees of their missions who are also taking part.

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Officials and employees of the US and South African consulates during a match at the cricket ground of Skyline University College in Sharjah on Friday morning. Image Credit: Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

Sachin Naik, an Indian electrician with the US embassy in Abu Dhabi, said he was proud to play along the diplomats and other senior officials. “I could join because we don’t have enough cricket playing staff at the consulate,” said the all-rounder.

Sanjay Benjamin, head of sports department, Skyline University College, said the fourth edition of the cup is adding charm to the 30th anniversary celebrations of the university. The university sponsors the country jerseys which team members can proudly take home.

The participants were looking forward to having more thrill on the concluding day of the championship on Saturday which will feature an exciting match between Indian and Pakistani teams before the semi-finals and finals.