Expats boost cricket in Italy
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 Africa