As Eid celebrations begin in Birmingham and around the world, as well as wishing everyone Eid Mubarak, it is also a great time to reflect on the success of the Ramadan League which ran at Edgbaston throughout Ramadan. Warwickshire Cricket Board coach Shozair Ali took time out from his Eid preparations to talk about the Ramadan League, run alongside other Chance to Shine Street projects in Birmingham.

The ground-breaking Ramadan League took place twice a week at Edgbaston indoor school from 10pm to midnight and generated much interest in the national media. “It’s been a massive success, bigger than we expected,” admitted Shozair. “We thought we would try it and see how it went. We had 20 participants in the first week and the same faces came back week in, week out, for every session.”

“We only came up with the idea a month before Ramadan started. It was hard work to get everything in place in a way which would meet Covid rules and also the needs of the 16-18 year old participants and their parents.”

Shozair Ali

Shozair says much of the credit for getting the Ramadan League off the ground must go to Eaton Gordon, Community Officer at WCB, who worked tirelessly to come up with solutions to meet the unique set of circumstances. Every aspect of Covid compliance was considered, with players being temperature checked on arrival and using separate individually coloured tape balls when bowling. Ramadan was also respected with a separate area of the hall kept free during the preparation so that participants could pray before play started.

Participants were brought to Edgbaston and taken home in taxis organised by Arif from the coaching staff. Parents would then text the coaches when the participants arrived home safely. When asked how parents felt about the arrangements, Shozair explains, “We have been coaching these boys for years as part of the Chance to Shine Street project. The parents know us as coaches at each Street hub and so we have that trust and relationship already in place. As long as the familiar coaches were there, the parents were happy for the boys to participate.”

The Ramadan League consisted of four teams, one each from the Chance to Shine Street hubs in Aston, Nechells, Saltley and Sparkhill. Shozair talks about how rewarding it was to see the four groups get to know each other and become friends as well as rivals. “We had a saying ‘Play Hard, Play Fair’, which we carried through the month. It was great to see the boys building new relationships and talking together after the last session, asking when they would get to play against each other again. Hopefully, we can sort something out for the summer.”

Shozair describes the immense energy shown by the participants in their enthusiasm for the cricket sessions. “Their energy got me through the evening, definitely,” Shozair added. Many of the participants had been at college all day and would be back at college again the following day, but that didn’t diminish their energy or appetite for cricket.

Shozair and his colleagues also put in long days to keep the Ramadan League running. On a Friday, for example, Shozair would be coaching in schools for much of the day, then coach at a Street hub from 5-7pm, before popping home to pick up some food and bringing it to Edgbaston. He would then break his fast with colleagues before the Ramadan League sessions started at 10pm, finishing at midnight. This was all before getting up on Saturday morning to play cricket himself for West Bromwich Dartmouth!

Shozair admits it has been an exhausting few weeks, but worth every minute. “My family told me to take a mattress and a blanket to Edgbaston,” he laughs. He is looking forward to spending Eid with his family, especially after last year when they were unable to see each other due to the Covid situation, and he is grateful to have some time off from work and cricket over Eid.  After all that hard work, Shozair deserves a very restful and enjoyable Eid, as do his fellow Ramadan League coaches Arif, Aasim, Khalid, Raja, Siraj and Waqas. They will be back working soon with WCB and Edgbaston staff Andy, Errol and Eaton – hopefully to plan next year’s Ramadan League.

The Warwickshire Cricket Board wishes Eid Mubarak to all the participants in our programmes and members of the wider cricket community celebrating Eid.