Cricket in Europe’s richest country: Interview with Luxembourg team manager Graham Cope

Luxembourg men's team

Universal T20 status & the introduction of global rankings has had a truly transformative impact on cricket, ever since their introduction by the ICC in 2018. It shows the value of throwing open the gates of a previously exclusive group to the masses, even if it is just at the T20 level. One such beneficiary of universal T20 status is the Luxembourg National Cricket Team, who are thrilled to be hosting their first set of ‘official’ T20 cricket games. These matches are scheduled to start on August 28th and will form part of the Luxembourg T20I Trophy. On the eve of this historic occasion, Emerging Cricket sat down with National Team Manager & board committee member Graham Cope, to talk about all things cricket in Europe’s wealthiest country.

Q) How excited are you to be hosting the first ever full T20I matches in Luxembourg? And what led to the organisation of this tri-series with Belgium and Czech Republic?

The whole of the Luxembourg Cricket community is very excited about this event for a specific reason. We have hosted T20i matches before, but this is the first time they will be fully ICC recognised and the Pierre Werner Cricket Ground in Walferdange has been accepted by ICC as meeting their standards. So, it is an exciting time for our players and supporters. We have organised this because the ICC has had to delay the official T20 World Cup Qualifying tournament due to the COVID pandemic which was the right thing to do, but this left our players with no international fixtures this summer. So, we contacted several countries and finally agreed with our friends in Belgium and Czech Republic to make this tri-series happen.

Q) Do Optimists Cricket Club still participate in the Belgian league?

The Optimists Cricket Club is the bedrock of cricket in Luxembourg. It is the largest club and now 45 years old with a great history. The Club was in fact a founding member of the Belgian league and has two teams that play competitively there. As we speak, the Optimists 1st team sits at the top of the Belgian Division 2 and the 2nd team is at the top of Division 3. The Belgian league provides good quality competitive cricket to Luxembourg and that it is why it is our pleasure to be able to host our nearby friends in the Tri-Series on August 28th-30th in Walferdange.

The team after the Romania’s Cricket Continental Cup 2019 (Photo: LCF)

Q) How many regular participants or registered players do you have in Luxembourg currently? Also, how many grounds and facilities do you have at your disposal?

Luxembourg is a small country but relatively speaking the sport of cricket is growing well. We have around 300 registered players plus a womens and juniors programme which are important parts of our development activity. We are benefitting from the growth in people coming to work in Luxembourg and from local activities such as the University of Luxembourg which now has its own Cricket Club competing well in our league system. We have two grounds and one has excellent net facilities, which helps all our training. Obviously, we would still like to get more facilities to help the growth of the sport; so things like indoor nets and another ground would help us immensely.

Q) The Luxembourg cricket board has the backing of Ministry of Sport. How important is this backing for the sport in the country?

Yes, we are very pleased to have the continued support of the Ministry of Sport and the Commune of Walferdange. This is very important to us and we are looking to further expand this relationship by working on projects together such as the Campus Sport programme at the University. Cricket may not be the number one sport in Luxembourg, but our world ranking for cricket is higher than other major sports such as football or basketball.

Q) The national team seems to be largely dominated by players of South Asian & British heritage. How popular is cricket as a sport amongst the ‘native’ Luxembourgian population? 

Cricket is an imported sport to Luxembourg and the growth is mainly based upon non-natives. But through our development work we have an increasing number of younger players who were born in Luxembourg or have become residents and they are all very proud to represent this great country. Our mission is to continue to expand the sport because it offers so much in terms of ethics, integration and importantly fun! We hope this tri-series will further expand the awareness and participation in the sport.

Q) What are your future goals / dreams for cricket in Luxembourg? Do you have plans to spread the game locally e.g. in schools etc?

From the National team’s perspective, currently we are ranked 18th in Europe and 58th in the world, so obviously we want to improve that position this summer. This will then lead to the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifiers next summer when we want to show others how good our cricket has become. We have a strong squad who have been training for this since November last year and are ready now to show their skills. In the wider context, we have a well-established junior development process that runs all year long. This programme has been going for nearly 20 years and several of our national team players graduated through this. We continue to expand this and this year we have set up a partnership with a local Kids Sports company called ‘Little Lions Luxembourg’ that is leading the development of cricket into local schools. So, we continue to grow the game in every way we can.

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