The Slovenia Times

Batting Fo(u)r the Future



Indeed one of the goals of the International Cricket Council and its European counterpart (the ECC) is to widen the popularity of the game. Nevertheless most people are very surprised to find out that one of the countries where such development is taking place is in Slovenia itself! Surprisingly cricket has been played in Slovenia since 1997, when the first exhibition match was staged between a group of mainly English and Australian cricket fans living in the Ljubljana area and a visiting team from Holland. Although for the most part the team continues to be dominated by ex-pats from the traditional homes of cricket, more and more Slovenes are becoming involved and making their way into the team. Indeed one of the very first Slovenes to get involved in cricket was former President Milan Kucan who while president of Slovenia accepted an invitation to become the patron of Ljubljana Cricket Club. Some of those Slovenes taking up cricket have come to the game from other sports such as handball and rowing, while others have joined having little or no previous sporting experience. What all agree on however is that cricket is a great team game. As Daniel Herakovic remarks, "What I enjoy most is the comradeship and camaraderie... These guys are all about enjoying themselves first and foremost, and trying to win games alongside that." Probably the most important goal of all those involved in cricket in Slovenia is to develop the game within the country, especially the number of Slovenes playing the game. The 'novelty' of the sport (22 men dressed in white shirts and trousers standing in a field) has attracted the attention of the media and this in turn has resulted in a steady flow of native recruits. However, since 2002 Ljubljana CC has been running a highly successful youth training scheme with schools in an around the city, including Skofijska Klasicna Gimnazija (The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium) in Sentvid and Smlednik primary school. As Andrej Kokalj, sports teacher at Skofijska Klasicna Gimnazija comments, "I first heard about cricket in Slovenia from my English teacher, who is a club member. He offered to bring some club members to show our students how to play, and this happened in December. We had about 80 students playing and watching, and everybody had a good time. I hope some of these young people will stay interested. It's a good sport, and it is also interesting for them because it is different and none of their friends play". One of the most important early goals of the club was to secure a permanent ground where games could be played. This was achieved in 1998, when the club secured a lease for the use of a field with a beautiful location at Valburga pri Smledniku. The next major breakthrough came in 2000, when Ljubljana CC became the first non-Austrian team to enter the Austrian league. At that time the other participants were nine clubs from Vienna and a tenth from Vrba (Velden). For the first three years in the League Ljubljana had to play all of their games in Austria. However, this year saw the League grant Ljubljana permission to hold half of their games in Valburga effectively internationalising the League. Furthermore the club received a major financial boost this year when it secured sponsorship from the Australian company Harvey Norman. Although the clubs fortunes in the Austrian league have been mixed there have been other notable successes for the team. In 2001 the club won a 6-a-side tournament in Lodi, Italy while this year they won a similar competition held in Velden, Austria. In addition the club regularly represent the British Ambassador's XI against a Sri Lankan Ambassador's XI from Vienna for the Botschafter's Cup, a trophy which they have won twice in three competitions. The growth in demands on the club, the ground, and the team led to the decision to expand the game within Slovenia beyond the capital. As a result an exhibition game was held at this year's agricultural fair in Gornja Radgona, sponsored by the British Embassy, to officially launch Maribor CC. Future plans will also see Ljubljana CC reluctantly leave Valburga for a much larger ground to the east of the city where there will be sufficient room for two cricket pitches and training facilities. While Ljubljana CC was the first club in the former Yugoslavia, cricket has now spread to Zagreb, Belgrade, Split/Makarska and Skopje demonstrating the popularity of the game, even in an area like the Balkans which has little if any cricketing history. As well as playing teams from the Austrian league, Ljubljana has welcomed teams to Slovenia from many countries including Australia, England, Italy, Scotland and Switzerland. Moreover Ljubljana has also taken part, as the Slovene national team, in the 2000 and 2002 European Cricket Council Representative festivals and has played a full international test match against the Czech Republic. Next summer Slovenia aims to host the 2004 European Cricket Council Representative Festival, an international tournament comprising eight teams including Bulgaria, Slovakia, Luxembourg and teams from across the former Yugoslavia. From humble beginnings then cricket has rather unexpectedly taken root in a country more famous for basketball, handball, skiing and ice hockey. As Alasdair Green, Secretary of Ljubljana CC says, cricket is "now firmly established as a native Slovene sport. We are proud that of our thirty or so adult playing members, more than a third are Slovenes, almost all of whom have learned their cricket here in Slovenia." So maybe one day fifty years from now Slovenia might also be a country of long (alpine) shadows on mestni cricket grounds. For more information about cricket in Slovenia please contact or see


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