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Cricket has a rather odd place in Italian sporting history, and that it used to be played widely by British expats indirectly led to football becoming the major sport in the country.
Several of the top football sides owe their existence to cricket, perhaps most famously AC Milan which was formed as a cricket club in 1899 by two British expats from Nottingham. But now Asian expats are reintroducing cricket to the country, and earlier this year the IPL was broadcast on an Italian satellite channel.
"There are loads of people playing cricket in the streets," the Italian board president Simone Gambino told Reuters. His organisation’s challenge is to foster the enthusiasm of the Asian community and spread it among the local population. There is also a problem with finding enough pitches to play on.
Gambino said he was confident that the Italian side was good enough to beat much better opposition. “If Zimbabwe played Italy in a series of five matches, we would certainly win one game yet they are Full Members."
As an Associate member of the ICC, Italy will benefit from increased funding which kicks in next year, However, it also faces problems from on high. Dependent on expats, cricket could well be affected by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s well-publicied clampdown on immigration.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and AfricaFeeds: Martin Williamson
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.