Colombia: Cricket returns to Bogota
The fluctuating fortunes of cricket in Colombia will make a revival of sorts later this month when the expatriates of the capital, Bogota, take to the field in the country's first cricket match for over 12 months.
The teachers from the Anglo Colombian School will meet a team representing the remainder of Bogota's cricket-playing community, in another chapter in the history of Bogota Sports Club Cricket Club, which extends back nearly 50 years.
Like many outposts of the game, the playing numbers and standard varies depending on economic variables which either attract or repel foreign labour to or from the country.
A recent influx of teachers working at the various English schools means there will be sufficient numbers for an eleven-a-side game to be played at Colombia's traditional home of cricket, the Bogota Sports Club.
The Anglo Colombian School's opposition will include teachers from other schools, a New Zealander who works at the National University, an accountant, two staff remaining from the once populous BP expatriate work force, an insurance executive, and staff from the British and Canadian Embassies.
Most of Bogota's cricketers are either British or Canadian, with a couple of Trinidadians. Colombians are yet to take up the sport. Despite the variety of backgrounds of Anglo Colombian's opposition, most of Bogota's cricketers are either linked to the English/bilingual schools or the oil industry.
According to Norman Thracht, one of the main organisers of the November 19 match, Bogota's weekend cricketers will be made welcome by a pitch which is a "truly a batsmen's paradise and definitely a spinner's nightmare."
"Due to the high altitude (2,600 metres above sea level), the ball does not move at all in the air and sixes are quite common," Norman explained.
The ground is a lush field with boundaries of 70 metres in any direction, the pitch is of concrete base, covered with a thin felt mat.
The present ground is the Bogota Sports Club's third venue, after its previous playing field was sold in 1997 due to economic pressures. This gave the Club the chance to build a fresh facility further away from the city, at less cost.
When construction was finished in 1999, the Club had expanded to seven tennis courts, two squash courts, two soccer grounds and a swimming pool, plus an improved dining room and bar.
According to Norman, membership has dropped to 120, due to the economic recession the country is suffering at the moment, the worst economic and political slump in 100 years.
The situation was different during the 1960s when well over half of the Sports Club's 160 strong membership was Colombian.
The number of Colombians had swelled following the Club's purchase of a 4ha peice of land in 1964, on which a club house was built and some Colombian members were admitted for the first time. This consolidated the club's existence after its formation in 1964.
Thirty years ago there were enough employees of the Royal Bank of Canada, Lloyd's Bank and the British Consulate in Cali (400 kms south of Bogota) to field a team and a match was arranged with the Bogota cricketers every six months on a home and away basis. Since then the RBC Bank has been sold and the British Consul closed, and so no more team.
Such was the cricket population and level of cricket activity in Bogota, that visits to Caracas and Lima were relatively frequent and visiting teams included the New Zealand national team, the Derek Robbins' XI, Panama and Trinidad Tobago.
Between 1985 and 1993, British Petroleum provided the club with a potential reservoir of 1000 British employees, of which 65 were active club members, playing cricket and/or soccer and some rugby.
Unfortunately, due to political reasons, 98% of these people have returned to UK or transferred to other parts of the world.
Despite the downturn, the club lives on. It would welcome visiting teams. IF you would like to play cricket at altitude, you can contact Norman on: Phone: +57-1-3384573 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org